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Full text of "Smart Computing Volume 15 Issue 8"

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August 2004 Vol.15 Iss. 8 $5.99 U.S. $7.99 Canada 



^tft smartcomputing.com 

Computing. 

I In Plain Fnnli<;h *J 



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i 



Tech Support 

Update F-Prot 

Antivirus & Legacy 

Family Tree p.100 

A 

Resolve Java- Related 

TOrS p.98 



if M. & m 

MrMc 



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7 l,l 25274 N 77294 ,N o 



08> 



I 



ay On Top 



udies: 

i rack Changes In MS Word p.80 
ise Multiple Excel Worksheets p.84 
iate A Paint Shop Pro Collage p.85 

Plugged In 

How To Avoid Spyware p.47 
ShowsAtTvtome.com p.42 



istisiftw'fmsiipik 



General Computing 

iy: How Does It Work? p.34 

MFD Roundup: 
*viiich Multifunction Device Is For You? p.36 

PC Ops 

"GetMore Out Of Win98's Address Bar p.31 
HowT&iJse WinXP's Remote Desktop p.26 




IBM ThinkPad X Series 



GO with IBM Think Express Program 

IBM ThlnkExpress models are designed, configured 

and priced with small to medium-size businesses in mind. 



C/VF7" Editors Choice Award, March, 2004 
IBM ThinkPad X40 



"Availability: All offers subject to availability. IBM reserves the right to alter product offerings and specifications at any time, without notice, IBM is not responsible for photographic or typographic errors. Pricing: 
does not include tax or shipping and is subject to change without notice. Reseller prices may vary, Warranty: For a copy of applicable product warranties, write to: Warranty Information, P.O. Box 12195, RTF, NC 
27709, Attn: Dept JDJA/B2Q3. IBM makes no representation or warranty regarding third-party products or services. Footnotes: (1) Mobile Processor: Power management reduces processor speed when in battery 
mode. (2) Wireless 11a, 11b and 11 g: based on IEEE 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.1 1g, respectively. An adapter with 11a/b, 11 b/g or 11 a/b/g can communicate on either or any of these listed formats respectively; the 

actual connection will be based on the access point to which it connects. (3) Included software: may differ from its retail version (if available) and may not include user manuals or all program functionality. License 
agreements may apply. (4) Hard drive: GB = billion bytes. Accessible capacity is less; up to 4GB is service partition. (5) Memory: For PCs without a separate video card, memory supports both system and video. 
Accessible system memory is up to 64MB less than the amount stated, depending on video mode. (6) Limited warranty: Support unrelated to a warranty issue may be subject to additional charges. (7) ServicePac 
services: are available for machines normally used for business, professional or trade purposes, rather than personal, family or household purposes. Service period begins with the equipment date of purchase. Service 



IBM recommends Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional for Business. 



^^^ 



centrino 



MOBILE 
TECHNOLOGY 



Protect your data against accidents 

When yOU're On the rOad. Accidents definitely do 
happen. Especially when you're working wirelessly. Which is why you should have an 
IBM ThinkPad® notebook with Intel® Centrino"'' 1 Mobile Technology. Select ThinkPad 
notebooks are the only PCs designed to sense a fall and, within 500 milliseconds, 
park the hard drive's read/write head. Kind of like an air bag for your data. To view a 
demo, visit ibm.com/shop/m443. You'll see why select IBM ThinkPad notebooks 
with Intel Centrino Mobile Technology give wireless users the confidence to tackle 
almost anything — networking, presentations, even the occasional meeting 
with the pavement AlKJ QO flDR! "Gil, #@* A \ " tO 

"phew" in less than a second. 

Klutz-proof wireless. Only on a ThinkPad. 
1 866 426-0062 ibm.com/shop/m443 



NEW! IBM ThinkPad R51 

Ultimate Value 

Distinctive IBM Innovations: 

• IBM Active Protection System - 
Helps protect your hard-drive from falls 

System Features: 

• Intel® Centrino™ Mobile Technology 

• Intel Pentium^ M Processor 1.50GHz 1 

• Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 802.1 1b/g ? 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 

• 14.1" XGA TFT display (1024x768) 
•256MB DDR SDRAM 5 

• 20GB hard drive 4 

• Ultrabay™ Enhanced CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo 

• IBM UltraConnect™ Antenna for increased 
signal strength' 

• 1-yr system/battery limited warranty 5 



NavCode 28832XU-M419 

THINK EXPRESS MODEL PRICED AT: 



$1,299* 



Service Pac* Service Upgrade: 7 
3-yr Depot Repair #30L9192 $132 



IBM ThinkPad X40 

Our thinnest and lightest 

Distinctive IBM Innovations: 

• IBM Active Protection System - 
Helps protect your hard-drive from falls 

• NEW! IBM Rescue and Recovery™ with Rapid 
Restore™ - One- button recovery and restore solution 

System Features: 

• Intel Centrino Mobile Technology 

• Intel Pentium M Processor ULV 1GHz 

• Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 802.11b 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 

• 1 2.1" XGA TF display (1024x768) 
•256MB DDR SDRAM 

• 20GB hard drive 

• Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and modem 

• Legendary IBM full-size keyboard 6 
•Only .94" thin 

•2.7-lb travel weight"' 

• 1-yr system/battery limited warranty 1. 



NavCode 23861CU-M419 

THINK EXPRESS MODEL PRICED AT: 



$1,499 



levels are response-time objectives and are not guarantees. Calls must be received by 5pm local time in order to qualify for Next Business Day service. If the machine problem turns out to be a Customer Replaceable 
Unit (CRU), IBM will express ship the part to you for quick replacement. Onsite 24x7x2-hour service is not available in all locations. For ThinkPad notebooks requiring LCD or other component replacement, IBM may 
choose to perform service at the depot repair center. (8} Full-size keyboard: As defined by ISO/I EC 15412. (10) Travel weight: includes battery and optional travel bezel instead of standard optical drive in Ultrabay 
bay, if applicable; weight may vary due to vendor components, manufacturing process and options. (11) Thinness: may vary at certain points on the system. (12) Wireless capability: requires compatible wireless- 
enabled options, sold separately. Trademarks: The following are trademarks or registered trademarks of IBM Corporation: IBM : the IBM logo : Rapid Restore ; Rescue and Recovery, ThinkPad. Ultrabay, UltraConnect 
and UltraNav. Microsoft and Windows are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Intel, Intel Inside, Intel Inside logo ; Intel Centrino, Intel Centrino logo, Intel SpeedStep and Pentium are trademarks or registered 
trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of other companies. ©2004 IBM Corporation. 
All rights reserved. Visit www.ibm.com/pc/safecomfiuting periodically for the latest information on safe and effective computing. 



Take a look at our latest models. And get something nice to shout about. 

Z7 




Why IBM ThinkPad Notebooks? 
To make IBM ThinkPad® notebooks 
even more valuable, each one 
featured here comes with all the 
following ThinkVantage™ Technologies: 

IBM Active Protection System: 

Butterfingers unite! IBM ThinkPad 
notebooks now include airbag like 
technology to help protect your hard 
drive from some damage caused by 
drops and jolts (select models}. 

NEW! Rescue and Recovery 
with Rapid Restore: 
Lost your data because of a software 
crash or virus? Recover previously 
saved dafa in minutes with our 
one-button solution. 

Access Connections: 

Switch between wired and wireless 

connections. 

Embedded Security 
Subsystem 2.0: 1 
Hackers and thieves, beware. Our 
combined hardware and software 
solution is designed to protect user 
data and keep it private. 

Access IBM: 

Get the help you need, when you 
need it. One button on your ThinkPad 
notebook brings you a world of 
resources and assistance. 

NEW! IBM ThinkPad R51 
System Features: 

• InteP Centrino 11 ' 1 Mobile Technology 

* Intel Pentium® M Processor 1.50GHz 3 

* Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 802.1 1b/g a 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 1 

• 1 5" SXGA+ TFT display (1400x1050) 
•256MB DDR SDRAM= 

• 40GB hard drive^ 

• Integrated Ethernet and modem 

• IBM Ultrabay '" Enhanced CD-RW/ 
DVD-ROM combo 

• IBM Ultra Connect'"' Antenna for 
increased signal strength"" 

• 1-yr system/battery limited warranty' 



NavCode1836BDU-M419 

THINK EXPRESS MODEL 

PRICED AT: 



$1,499 



With Microsoft Office Small Business 

Edition 2003: B 51,739 




NEW! IBM ThinkPad T42 
System Features: 

• Intel Centrino Mobile Technology 

• Intel Pentium M Processor 1.50GHz 

• Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 
802,11 b/g 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 

• 14.1 ' XGA TFT display (1024x768) 

• 32MB ATI Mobility RADEON 7500 
•256MB DDR SDRAM 

• 30GB hard drive 

• Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and modem 

• IBM Ultrabay Slim DVD-ROM 

• IBM UltraConnect Antenna 
for increased signal strength 

• Only 1" thin, 1 -' 4.5-lb travel weight" 

• 1-yr system/battery limited warranty 7 

NavCode2378DTU-M419 

THINK EXPRESS MODEL 

PRICED AT: 



$1,629 



With Microsoft Office Small Business 
Edition 2003: $1,869 

ServicePac Service Upgrade: 

3-yr Depot Repair #30L9192 $132 



NEW! IBM ThinkPad T42 

System Features: 

• Intel Centrino Mobile Technology 

• Intel Pentium M Processor 735 (1.70GHz. 
400MHz FSB) 

• Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 
802.11 b/g 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 

• 15" SXGA+ TFT display (1400x1050) 

• 512MB DDR SDRAM 

• 64MB ATI Mobility RADEON 9600 graphics 
•60GB hard drive (7200 RPM) 

• Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and modem 

• IBM Ultrabay Slim CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo 

• IBM UltraConnect Antenna 

for increased signal strength 

•3-yr system/1 -yr battery limited warranty 



NavCode2379DXU-M419 

THINK EXPRESS MODEL 

PRICED AT: 



$2,529 



With Microsoft Office Small Business 
Edition 2003: 32,769 

ServicePac Service Upgrade: 

4-yr Onsite Repair/9x5/Next Business Day 

Response #69P9198 $299 




IBM ThinkPad X40 

System Features: 

• Intel Centrino Mobile Technology 

• Intel Pentium M Processor ULV 1GHz 

• Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 
802,11b 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 
•12.1" XGA TFT display (1024x768) 

• Intel Extreme Graphics 2 
•256MB DDR SDRAM 

• 20GB hard drive 

• Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and modem 

• Legendary IBM full-size keyboard' 2 
•Only .94" thin 

• 2.7-lb travel weight 

• 1-yr system/battery limited warranty 7 



NavCode23861CU-M419 
THINK EXPRESS MODEL 
PRICED AT: 



$1,499 



With Microsoft Office Small Business 
Edition 2003: $1,739 

ServicePac® Service Upgrade: 1 ' 

2-yr Onsite Repair/9x5/Next Business Day 

Response #30L9189 $197 

IBM ThinkPad X40 

Distinctive IBM Innovations: 

• Longest standard battery life of any 
leading-brand notebook'' 

System Features: 

• Intel Centrino Mobile Technology 

* Intel Pentium M Processor LV 1.20GHz 

* Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 
802.11b 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 

• 12 1 XGA TFT display (1024x768) 

• Intel Extreme Graphics 2 
•256MB DDR SDRAM 
•40GB hard drive 

• Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and modem 

• Legendary IBM full-size keyboard 

• 7.5-hr Li-Ion battery 1, 

• 1-yr system/battery limited warranty' 



NavCode23866GLJ-M419 
THINK EXPRESS MODEL 

PRICED AT: 



$1,749 



ServicePac Service Upgrade: 

3-yr Onsite Repair/9x5/Next Business Day 

Response #30L91 95 $243 




IBM ThinkPad X40 Solution Pack 

System Features: 

• Intel Centrino Mobile Technology 

• Intel Pentium M Processor ULV 1 GHz 

• Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 
802,11b 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 

• 1 2.1 n XGA TFT display (1 024x768) 
•256MB DDR SDRAM 

• 20GB hard drive 
•Only .94" thin 

• 2.7-lb travel weight 

• 1-yr system/battery limited warranty' 
Accessories Included: 

• ThinkPad X4 UltraBase™ Dock 

• IBM Ultrabay Slim CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo 



NavCode23361ZU-M419 

THINK EXPRESS MODEL 

PRICED AT: 



$1,799 



ServicePac Service Upgrade: 

3-yr Onsite Repair/9x5/Next Business Day 

Response #30L91 95 $243 



IBM ThinkPad X40 Solution Pack 

Distinctive IBM Innovations: 

• Longest standard battery life of any 
leading-brand notebook 

System Features: 

• Intel Centrino Mobile Technology 

• Intel Pentium M Processor LV 1.20GHz 

• Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 802.11b 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 

• 12.1" XGA TFT display (1024x768) 
•256MB DDR SDRAM 

•40GB hard drive 

• Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and modem 

• 7,5-hr Li-Ion battery 

• 3-yr system/1 -yr battery limited warranty 7 
Accessories Included: 

■ ThinkPad X4 UltraBase Dock 

• IBM Ultrabay Slim CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo 

NavCode23826UU-M419 

THINK EXPRESS M^ODEL 
PRICED AT: 



$2,199 



ServicePac Service Upgrade: 

5-yr Onsite Hepair/9x5/Next Business Day 

Response #69P9200 $449 



NavCode Get the latest pricing and information fast. 
Use NavCode on the phone or on the Web. 



^Availability: All offers subject to availability. IBM reserves the right to alter product offerings and specifications at any time, without notice. IBM is not responsible for photographic or typographic errors. Pricing: does not 
include tax or shipping and is subject to change without notice. Reseller prices may vary. Warranty: For a copy of applicable product warranties, write to: Warranty Information, P.O. Box 12195, RTP MC 27709, Attn: Dept 
JDJA/B203. IBM makes no representation or warranty regarding third-party products or sen/ices. Footnotes: (1) Embedded security system: requires software download. (2) Mobile Processors: Power management reduces 
processor speed when in battery mode. (3) Wireless 11a t 11band11g: based on IEEE 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.1 1g, respectively. An adapter with 11a/b, 11 b/g or 1 1 a/b/g can communicate on either or any of these listed 
formats respectively; the actual connection will be based on the access point to which it connects. (4) Included software: may differ from its retail version (if available) and may not include user manuals or all program 
functionality. License agreements may apply. (5) Memory: For PCs without a separate video card, memory supports both system and video. Accessible system memory is up to 64MB less than the amount stated, depending 
on video mode. (6) Hard drive: GB = billion bytes. Accessible capacity is less; up to 4GB is service partition. (7} Limited warranty: Support unrelated to a warranty issue may be subject to additional charges. {8} Microsoft 
Office XP: Certain Microsoft software product(s) included with this computer may use technological measures for copy protection. IN SUCH EVENT, YOU WILL MOT BE ABLE TO USE THE PRODUCT IF YOU DO NOT FULLY 
COMPLY WITH THE PRODUCT ACTIVATION PROCEDURES. Product activation procedures and Microsoft's privacy policy will be detailed during initial launch of the product, or upon certain reinstallations of the software 
product(s) or reconfigurations of the computer and may be completed by Internet or telephone (toll charges may apply). (9) Travel weight: includes battery and optional travel bezel instead of standard optical drive in 




(Monitor not included) 

Why IBM ThinkCentre PCs? 

Only IBM offers these features to 
protect you, connect you, and keep 
you working. Each ThinkCentre™ 
desktop featured here can give 
you the efficiency, productivity and 
edge you need with the following 
ThinkVantage Technologies: 

IBM Rapid Restore Ultra: 
Lost your data because of a software 
crash or virus? Recover previously 
saved data in minutes with our 

one-button solution. 

Access IBM: 

Get the help you need, when you need 
it. One button on your ThinkCentre 
desktop brings you a world of 
resources and assistance. 

ImageUltra™ Builder: 

Need to roll out new systems? Image 

and copy your operating system 
across your network in a flash. 
(Order separately) 

IBM ThinkCentre A50p 

System Features: 

• Intel® Pentium^ 4 Processor 520 with 

HT Technology 

• Processor speed 2. 80GHz 

• 800MHz FSB 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 
•256MB DDR PC2700 5 

• 40GB hard drive • CD-RW 

• Integrated 10/100 Ethernet 

• Morton Antivirus r ' with 90 days of virus 
definition updates 

• Lotus'' Smarts uite : ' Millennium license 

• 1-yr parts/1 -yr limited onsite service 
limited warranty^ 



NavCode 843398U-M41 9 

THINK EXPRESS MODEL 
PRICED AT: 



$699 




(Monitor not included) 

IBM ThinkCentre A50 

Distinctive IBM Innovations: 

• The smallest IBM desktop without 
compromise: 62% smaller than a 
standard IBM desktop 

System Features: 

• Intel Pentium 4 Processor 520 with 
HT Technology 

• Processor speed 2.80GHz 

• 800MHz FSB 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 

• 256MB DDR PC2700 
•40GB hard drive •CD-ROM 

• Integrated 10/100 Ethernet 

• Norton Antivirus with 90 days of virus 
definition updates 

• Lotus SmartSuite Millennium license 

• 3-yr parts/1-yr limited onsite service 
limited warranty" 



NavCode 841933U-M419 

THINK EXPRESS MODEL 

PRICED AT: 



$749 



ServicePac Service Upgrade: 

4-yr Onsite Repair/9x5/Next Business Day 

Response #69P9158 $198 

IBM ThinkCentre A50p 

System Features: 

• Intel Pentium 4 Processor 520 with 
HT Technology 

• Processor speed 2.80GHz 

• 800MHz FSB 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 

• 256MB DDR PC2700 
•40GB hard drive -CD-RW 

• Norton Antivirus with 90 days of virus 
definition updates 

•Integrated 10/1 00 Ethernet 

• Lotus SmartSuite Millennium license 

• 3-yr parts/1 -yr limited onsite service 
limited warranty^ 



NavCode 843298U-M41 9 

THINK EXPRESS MODEL 



$799 




(Monitor not included) 

IBM ThinkCentre S50 

Distinctive IBM Innovations: 

•The smallest IBM desktop without 
compromise: 62% smaller than a 
standard IBM desktop 

System Features: 

• Intel Pentium 4 Processor 520 with 
HT Technology 

* Processor speed 2.80GHz 
•800MHz FSB 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 
•512MB DDR PC2700 

•40GB hard drive* CD-ROM 

• Norton Antivirus with 90 days ot virus 
definition updates 

• Gigabit Ethernet-integrated 

• 3-yr limited warranty with limited 
onsite service 1 * 



NavCode 81 8336U-M41 9 



$1,079 



With Microsoft Office Small Business 
Edition 2003: $1, 31 9 

ServicePac Service Upgrade: 
4-yr Onsite/9x5/4-hr Response 
#69P9162 $250 

IBM ThinkCentre M50 

System Features: 

• Intel Pentium 4 Processor 520 with 
HT Technology 

• Processor speed 2.80GHz 
•800MHz FSB 

• Microsoft Windows XP Professional 
•512MB DDR PC2700 

•40GB hard drive •CD-ROM 

• Intel Extreme Graphics 2 

• Gigabit Ethernet-integrated 

• 3-yr limited warranty with limited 
onsite service 1 " 



NavCode 8187EJU-M419 



$1,049 



With Microsoft Office Small Business 
Edition 2003:51,288 
ServicePac Service Upgrade: 
3-yr Onsite/9x5/4-hr Response 
#41L2734 $129 




MOBILE 
TECHNOLOGY 



IBM recommends Microsoft® 
Windows® XP Professional 
for Business. 

IBM ThinkExpress Program: 

We've designed and priced many 
of our products specifically for 
small and medium businesses. 
And best of all, they're available 
direct from IBM or through select 
IBM Business Partners. 



IBM ThinkPad Accessories 

Belkin Components Universal Notebook 
Travel Surge Protector 
#22P7127 $20 

Targus Deluxe Mobile Essentials Kit 
#22P7437 $60 

ThinkPad Premiere Leather Carrying Case 
#10K0209 $99 

ThinkPad 72W AC/DC Combo Adapter 
#22P9010 $99 

ThinkPad Port Replicator If 
#74P6733 $179 

IBM ThinkCentre Accessories 

IBM 128MB USB 2.0 High-Speed 
Memory Key 
#22P9229 $59 

Lexmark X5270 All-in-One Printer 
#22P8808 $140 

IBM ThinkVision™ L170 17" Flat Panel 
Monitor with system purchase 
#W9SPAB0 $449 



1 866 426-0062 ibm.com/shop/m443 



Ultrabay bay, if applicable; weight may vary due to vendor components, manufacturing process and options. (10) Thinness: may vary at certain points on the system. (11) ServicePac services: are available for machines 
normally used for business, professional or trade purposes, rather than personal, family or household purposes. Service period begins with the equipment date of purchase. Service levels are response-time objectives and 
are not guarantees. If the machine problem turns out to be a Customer Replaceable Unit (CRU), IBM will express ship the part to you for quick replacement. Onsite 24x7x2-hour service is not available in all locations. For 
ThinkPad notebooks requiring LCD or other component replacement, IBM may choose to perform service at the depot repair center. Calls must be received by 5pm local time in order to qualify for Next Business Day Service. 
(12) Full-size keyboard: As defined by IS0/IEC 15412, (13) Battery life: Based on manufacturer's published figures or CMET.com results for the top 5 vendors in 2003 notebook sales based on IDC data, as of 1/29/2004. 
(14) Systems with limited onsite service: are designed to be repaired during the applicable warranty period primarily with customer-replaceable parts provided by IBM, IBM will only send a technician onsite to perform a 
repair if (a) remote telephone diagnosis and/or customer part replacement are unable to resolve the problem, or (b) the part is one of the few designated by IBM for onsite replacement. For a list of onsite replaceable parts, 
contact IBM. Support unrelated to a warranty issue may be subject to additional charges. (15) Certain IBM logo products: are not manufactured, warranted or supported by IBM; IBM logos and trademarks used under license. 
Contact IBM for details. (16) Wireless capability: requires compatible wireless-enabled options, sold separately. (17) Battery: These model numbers achieved the Ziff Davis Media, Inc.'s Business Winstone" 2002 
BatteryMark™ Version 1.0 Battery Rundown Time of at least the time shown. This test was performed without independent verification by the VeriTest testing division of Lionbridge Technologies, Inc. ("VeriTest") or Ziff Davis 
Media, Inc.; neither Ziff Davis Media, Inc., nor VeriTest makes any representations or warranties as to these test results. Winstone is a registered trademark and BatteryMark is a trademark of Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings, 
Inc., in the U.S. and other countries. A description of the environment under which the test was performed is available at ibm.com/pc/ww/thinkpad/batt.erylife. Battery life (and recharge times) will vary based on many factors 
including screen brightness, applications, features, power management, battery conditioning and other customer preferences. Trademarks: The following are trademarks or registered trademarks of IBM Corporation: IBM, 
the IBM logo, ImageUltra, Lotus, NavCode, Rapid Restore, Rescue and Recovery, SmartSuite, ThinkCentre, ThinkPad, ThinkVantage, ThinkVision, UltraConnect, UltraBase, Ultrabay and UltraNav. Microsoft and Windows are 
registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Intel, Intel Inside, Intel Inside logo, Intel Centrino, Intel Centrino logo, Intel SpeedStep and Pentium are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its 
Subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of other companies. © 2004 IBM Corporation. All rights reserved. 
Visit www. ibm. comfpc/safecomputing periodically for the latest information on safe and effective computing. 



Volume 1 5 • August 2004 • Issue 8 



Focus For August 




The Death Of Tech Support 



56 Tech Support: Going, Going, Gone? 

The state of technical support and customer service in the computer 
industry is a subject of great debate these days, so we decided to do some 
in-depth research on the topic and find out how accurate consumers' 
complaints were. The articles in this month's feature package reveal our 
findings, offer suggestions about how to effectively deal with tech support 
representatives, explain how you can take advantage of other resources to 
solve your computing problems, and much more. 

58 Down & Out & Offshore 

The decline of technical support is not only apparent when you read 
magazines such as Smart Computing and Consumer Reports, but it also 
becomes obvious when you visit various chat rooms and Web blogs. We 
discuss the most common complaints we've heard and tell you about 
some areas of customer service that are, believe it or not, getting better. 

62 Support Showdown 

To take our research to the next level, we put the computer industry's 
tech support departments to the test. To do this, we contacted 28 compa- 
nies a couple of times each to request help with a simple problem and a 
more complex problem. Our results reveal which companies provided the 
best and worst support according to a variety of criteria. 

66 Get Better Support 

There are specific things you can do to make tech support work for you 
rather than against you. We share some of our insights in hopes of mak- 
ing your next contact with tech support a more positive experience. 

70 Your Best Bet 

Learn to take charge of your own hardware and software by doing such 
simple things as researching products beforehand, updating them often, 
and performing preventative maintenance. If you follow the guidelines 
we outline in this article, you might be able to avoid contacting tech 
support altogether. 

74 Help Yourself 

We tell you what self-help resources are out there and why it's important 
to take advantage of them. After doing so, you'll soon feel comfortable 
enough to answer your own questions and notice that the do-it-yourself 
approach is sometimes faster and more convenient than contacting tech 
support and waiting for a response, a response that may or may not lead 
to a resolution. 



14 Tech Diaries 

Our Smart Computing colum- 
nists spent some quality time 
with computer and computer- 
related hardware to get beyond 
the benchmark scores, statistics, 
and marketing hype. Find out 
what they liked and disliked 
about their choices inside. 



18 



Bon Appetit 

If canned spaghetti and frozen 
pizza have become regular 
dinnertime fare, it's time to take 
a look at cookbook software. 
We'll show you how these pro- 
grams can bring the magic back 
to the table. 



21 Software 



24 



Web: 

Mozilla Firefox 


21 




File Utilities: 

FinePrint Software 
pdfFactory 


22 




Security: 

Broderbund Identity 
Theft Protector 


22 





Impulse Items 

Each month, we take a look 
at several useful gadgets and 
programs you can get for $20 
or less. 




Copyright 2004 by Sandhills Publishing Company. Smart Computing is a 
registered trademark of Sandhills Publishing Company. All rights reserved. 
Reproduction of material appearing in Smart Computing is strictly prohibited 
without written permission. Printed in the U.S.A. GST # 123482788RT0001 
Smart Computing USPS 005-665 (ISSN 1093-4170) is published monthly for 
$29 per year by Sandhills Publishing Company, 131 West Grand Drive, P.O. 
Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501. Subscriber Services: (800) 424-7900. 
Periodicals postage paid at Lincoln, NE. POSTMASTER: Send address 
changes to Smart Computing, P.O. Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501 . 



MH^^^HHH 



PC Operating Instructions 



26 Windows XP 

Professional's Remote 
^Jj Desktop 

~-4 J When the file you need is at 

work, it's WinXP Pro to the res- 
cue. Remote Desktop can con- 
nect two computers, regardless 
of the distance between them. 

28 Solve Compatibility 
Problems In Windows 
2000 

j Win2000isastableOS,bothat 
home and at the office. But its 
security features can cause prob- 
lems. Read on to learn how to 
overcome these snafus. 



31 



% 



Use Windows 98's 
Address Bar To Its 
Potential 

Win98's Address Bar is the gate- 
way to the OS' myriad features. 
And while it does have a few 
limitations, we'll give you the 
tools to work around them. 



!fl 



34 How Did They Do That? 
Internet Telephones 

Cheaper long distance rates are 
just part of the reason why phone 
calls over the Internet are the wave 
of the future. But are Internet tele- 
phones as reliable as Ma Bell? 

36 All Together Now 

Devices that pull double or triple 
duty are indeed enticing, but 
MFDs have their advantages and 
disadvantages. We'll help you 
sort out whether these do-it-all 
machines are right for you. 



Plugged In 



40 Mr. Modem's Desktop: 
"Summertime-And The 
Downloads Are Easy 

In which Mr. Modem, author of 
several books — none of which 
have won the Pulitzer Prize — and 
co-host of the weekly "PC Chat" 
radio show, finds some great little 
utilities, explains how to navigate 
using IE's Address Bar, and brags 
about his fake degrees. 



42 Site Guide: TV Tome 
Brings Telly Trivia To You 

TV Tome is the ultimate online 
guide to current, classic, and 
future TV shows. The site covers 
every aspect of TV episodes, 
including casts, crews, bloopers, 
and little-known details. Plus, 
there are user forums and other 
opportunities to share your TV 
wisdom with others. 

45 Speedy Surfing With RSS 

If you're tired of visiting site after 
site in search of the type of news 
that interests you, give RSS (RDF 
Site Summary) a try. With it, you 
can use an RSS client to organize 
Web content and deliver it to you 
in a manner that's much quicker 
and easier to access. 

47 Beware Of Spyware, 
Adware & Sneakware 

The truth is that spyware, 
adware, and sneakware have 
become so annoying that it's 
not even fun to use the Internet 
anymore. Take matters into 
your own hands by ridding your 
system of these vermin and 
learning how to keep them at 
bay permanently. 



PC Project 



76 A Good Front 

With creating musical compila- 
tions and backups as easy as it 
is these days, discs are every- 
where. We'll show you how to 
label them, sans a marker. 



Quick Studies 



79 Roxio PhotoSuite 5 

Knowing Your Options 

80 Microsoft Word 2002 

Keep Track Of Changes, Part 2 

81 Print Shop 15 Deluxe 

Organize Your Projects 

82 WordPerfect 10 

Add Flair To Graphics 

84 Microsoft Excel 2002 

Using Multiple Worksheets 

85 Paint Shop Pro 8 

Use Layers To Create A Collage 

86 Quick Tips 



SmartComputing.com 



88 SmartComputing.com: 
New Feature-My 
Personal Library 

Wish you had one customized 
location to address all your 
computing questions, prob- 
lems, and/or interests? Look no 
further. Check out My Personal 
Library. Access your own per- 
sonal library at any time from 
any of our sites. 



94 Optical Surgery 

On the surface, CDs and DVDs 
don't look all that complicated. 
But behind the scenes is some 
fascinating technology that 
makes these discs click. We 
explain how optical discs work. 



Tech Support 



96 Defensive Computing: 
Hard Drive Backup & 
Restore Basics, Pt. 1 

Computer expert and resident 
paranoid Alan Luber helps you 
avoid PC disasters. 

98 Examining Errors 
100 Fast Fixes 
102 Q&A/FAQs 

You have questions. We have 
answers. The Smart Computing 
staff responds to your queries. 

107 Action Editor 

Can't seem to get a response from 
a vendor or manufacturer? If you 
need help, we're here for you. 



7 Technology News & Notes 

51 Web Tips 

52 Find It Online 

108 Editorial License 

Our editor gives his (occasionally 
skewed) perspective on a variety of 
technology-related issues. (OK, 
usually skewed.) 



Editor's Note 



In the "olden days" of personal computing, computers were simple, operating systems 
were small, and software worked every time. OK, so software didn't work every time. 
But when it didn't, we knew what to do: We called tech support. The rep would walk us 
through the problem and almost always come up with a solution. 

It was pretty straightforward, really. The support rep knew everything there was to 
know about the company's product, and he knew all about the computer configurations 
typical of those who called in. 

After all, there weren't that many configurations. In those days, the rep could be pretty 
sure that his caller was using DOS, was running a 286 machine with an EGA card, and . . . 
well, that's about it. In the PC world, that's all there was. Reps didn't worry about the 
caller's version of Windows, which device drivers were installed, which type of video card 
was being used, the motherboard's chipset, which USB devices were installed, what net- 
working protocols were running (and whether the network was wired or wireless), what 
type of internal and external hard drives were installed, and on and on and on ... . 

But let's not carry this too far. Yes, things were simpler then, but this is not a simplistic 
harkening back to some supposed "golden era" of computing. The fact is that these days 
we demand multitasking, configuration choices, and the functionality provided by a 
bewildering array of peripherals. The resultant complexity is the price we pay. 

Yet, there's no denying that help lines are no longer as, well, helpful as they used to be. 
Vendors work with razor-thin margins, and support gets short shrift. This month we 
focus on how tech support works (or fails to work) and what you can do about it. 
Perhaps we can introduce a measure of calm into an otherwise frustrating experience. 



Rod Scher, Publication Editor 



Now Available On Newsstands . . . 




Computer Power User • Hands-On Networking 

You're doing yourself an injustice if you only use your home network to share 
an Internet connection. We have more than 12 do-it-yourself projects to help 
you get the full benefit of having a network. You'll also find tips on editing your 
audio archives to make your old music sound new — plus tons more! 

PC Today • Boost Windows With Free Software! 

Looking to boost your Windows PC's performance or extend its capabilities 
without breaking the bank? Check out this month's PC Today for how-to's and 
reviews of shareware in nine top categories. 

CE Tips • How To Use Your PDA 

This issue looks at the emergence of PDAs as multimedia and communications 
tools and shows you how to accomplish basic tasks and navigate higher- end func- 
tions and menus for both Pocket PC and Palm OS devices. You'll also get product 
news, reviews, and tutorials for everything from portable gadgets to big-screen TVs. 

Smart Computing Reference Series • PC Modder 

It's baaa-ack. The latest edition of PC Modder is packed with dozens of new CPU 
and graphics card benchmark case studies. Get all the information you need on 
the hottest cards and chips for your PC. Oh, and our friend the Mad Modder is 
back, too. This time he decides to experiment with dry ice. 



Customer Service 

(For questions about your subscription or to 

place an order or change an address.) 

customer.service@smartcomputing.com 

(800) 733-3809 

Fax:(402)479-2193 

Smart Computing 

P.O. Box 85380 

Lincoln, NE 68501-5380 

Hours 

Mon. - Fri.: 7 AM to 8 PM (CST) 

Sat.: 8 AM to 4 PM (CST) 

Online Customer Service and Subscription Center 

http://www.smartcomputing.com 

Web Services 

(For questions about our Web site.) 
webhelp@smartcomputing.con 
(800) 368-8304 

Authorization For Reprints 

(800) 334-7458 
FAX: (402) 479-2104 

Editorial Staff 

editor@smartcomputing.com 
FAX: (402) 479-2104 
131 W.Grand Drive 
Lincoln, NE 68521 

Subscription Renewals 

(800) 424-7900 

FAX: (402) 479-2193 

http://www.smartcomputing.com 

Advertising Staff 

(800)848-1478 
FAX: (402) 479-2104 
131 W.Grand Drive 
Lincoln, NE 68521 



Choudhuri / Corey Russman / Christopher 

Trumble / Calvin Clinchard / Katie Dolan /Jennie 

Schlueter / Blaine Flamig / Raejean Brooks / 

Rebecca Christensen / Tara Weber / Michael Sweet 

/ Katie Crooks / Shawn Kupfer / Dana Montey / 

Nate Hoppe / Sheila Allen /Jennifer Hansen / Trista 

Kunce / Marty Sems / Chad Denton / Nathan 

Chandler / Kylee Dickey / Josh Gulick / Andrew 

Leibman / Eric Reed / Vince Cogley 

Web Staff: Missy Fletcher / Dorene Krausnick / Nick 

Ray / Laura Curry 

Customer Service: Alisha Lamb / Brandie Humphrey 

/ Becky Rezabek / Lana Matic / Linsday Albers 

Subscription Renewals: Liz Kohout / Connie 

Beatty / Matt Boiling / Patrick Kean / Charmaine 

Vondra / Miden Ebert / Kathy DeCoito / Stephanie 

Contreras / Nicole Buckendahl / Travis Brock 

Art & Design: Lesa Call / Fred Schneider / Carrie 

Benes / Ginger Riley / Sonja Warner / Leigh Trompke 

/ Aaron Weston / Aaron Clark / Lori Garris / ,ia««n 

Codr / Andria Schultz / Erin Rodriguez / Lind 

Anker 

Newsstand: Garth Lienemann / Kelly Richardson / 

Chris McGreer / Jeff Schnittker 

Advertising Sales: Grant Ossenkop / Cindy Pieper / 

Brooke Wolzen / Eric Cobb / Emily Getzschman / 

Jen Clausen 

Marketing Mark Peery / Marcy Gunn / Heather 

Mentgen / Amber Coffin 



Corrections/Clarifications 

In "New Features Turn Zip Into 9.0" on page 22 of the June issue, we said that WinZip 9.0 
can't create a self- extracting archive. In fact, it can with its WinZip Self- Extractor Personal 
Edition feature, accessible in the Make.Exe File option under the Actions menu. 



& 




Sandhills™ 
Publishing 




Compiled by Christian Perry 









Spam Persists, But 
Help Is On The Way 



Recent figures show spam con- 
tinues to be a major nuisance, 
but major industry players are 
preparing massive counteracts 
against the intrusive email barrage. 
According to MessageLabs, which 
provides managed email security ser- 
vices for worldwide businesses, more 
than two-thirds of the 840 million 



email messages it filters for 8,500 
customers are spam, with the United 
States suffering the most with 87% 
of total traffic identified as spam. 
There's a big drop-off to the next 
region listed, the United Kingdom, 
with 52%, followed by Germany at 
45%, Australia at 32%, the Nether- 
lands at 30%, and Hong Kong at 27%. 



Searching For A Household Name 

According to a new study by Leo J. Shapiro & Associates, people are now 
as familiar with Google as they are with Microsoft and Amazon.com. Of 
the respondents in the study, 76% heard of or used the popular search engine. 



Google: Sounds Good To Me 

Google is booming its way into public recognition, which could have a 
major impact on the company's IPO (initial public offering), expected this 
summer. Here are some findings from the study: 



' \J /O °^ res P on< ^ ents use d Google within 24 hours of the survey 

94% 

'63% 
60% 
60% 
26% 



of respondents earning more than $70,000 a year heard 
of or used Google 



of respondents earning $40,000 to $70,000 
heard of or used Google 



of respondents earning less than 
$40,000 heard of or used Google 

consider Google a good invest- 
ment, compared to 17% who don't 



heard that Google is holding 
a public stock auction 




Although these figures and others 
like them appear intimidating, big 
Internet-related companies aren't 
giving up. In fact, Yahoo!, Microsoft, 
and others are pushing ambitious 
plans that seek to stop spam mar- 
keters from bombarding users with 
unsolicited email. 

Yahoo! released a new email 
standard called DomainKeys that 
places an embedded digital signa- 
ture in outgoing email messages 
that matches a signature on the 
email server that sends them, which 
can help ISPs (Internet service 
providers) prevent the sending of 
messages from unauthorized users. 
Because many spammers use email 
spoofing to hide their identities, 
tracking and stopping spammers is 
difficult business, and Yahoo! expects 
this key-matching process to help 
boost security in an architecture that 
isn't very secure by design. Not only 
can the signature process help stop 
general spam, but it also can help 
combat outright fraud where scam- 
mers send faked emails from seem- 
ingly legitimate financial institutions 
and other sources. 

Similar methods are emerging 
elsewhere in the industry. Microsoft 
continues to develop its Caller ID 
For E-Mail standard, which uses a 
verification process similar to what 
Yahoofs DomainKeys uses. Caller 
ID For E-Mail is part of Microsoft's 
CSRI (Coordinated Spam Reduction 
Initiative), a long-range plan that 
uses technology to reduce spam. 



Smart Computing / August 2004 7 



Technology News & Notes 



Secret Surveyor 

Stealth monitoring once only 
existed in criminal and law 
enforcement territories, but re- 
cently devel- 



opers started 
packaging sur- 
veillance soft- 
ware for the 
retail market, 
particularly for 
parents who 
want to track their kids' online 
activities. Now this software is 
becoming at once ever more so- 
phisticated and user-friendly, and 
Rampell Software's ViewRemote 
(http://www.viewremote.com) is 
no exception. 

This $70 software doesn't just 
track activity on a computer, but 
it delivers its surveillance results 
to you on the Internet so that 
you can view everything that's 
happening on another online 
computer located anywhere. 
Simply install the software on 
the PC you want to monitor, con- 
figure it to record what you want, 



I 





Path to logs: C:\Prograrr, FilesWiewRemote 




:-.•.■•■ older than: 20 days | Choose L 


:■.! i -K-X-.: 




Activation hot key: Ctrl + Shift + Alt + V 


assword 


0fiunh,ddan 




Uninstall ViewRemote 












I Apply | [ fluit ] 





and then go away. At any time 
thereafter, you can go to the 
ViewRemote Web site, log in, 

and immediately 
view that PC and 
everything that 
ViewRemote 
captured since 
you left. 

This software 
isn't the first to 
deliver remote monitoring capa- 
bilities, but the Web tie-in makes 
it a powerful choice. 
However, it's also a 
potentially dangerous 
choice because all 
recorded keystrokes — 
including any passwords 
and financial informa- 
tion — are sent to the 
ViewRemote data 
center for archival. In 
other words, you'll need 
to trust Rampell Software to 
keep that data secure, especially 
if you also use any PC that 
ViewRemote monitors. 




Surf Your Way To Musical Scores 



Many guitarists agree that 
the Internet is the best thing 
to happen to the instrument in 
the last decade, especially consid- 
ering the abundance of online tab- 
lature databases and other helpful 
resources. Pianists aren't quite as 
blessed because online sheet music 
isn't as easy to find, but thanks to a 
joint venture between music pub- 
lisher Hal Leonard and Britain's 
Music Sales, Sheet Music Direct 
(http://www.sheetmusicdirect 
.com) now offers more than 10,000 
titles for piano, voice, and guitar, 
and its prices aren't bad, either. 

To use sheet music that you 
download from the site, you'll 



need to install the Scorch 2 
sheet music viewer, a free 
application that you also can 
download from the site. This 
innovative program not only 
lets you view and print your 
scores, but it also can play them 
for you to give you an idea of 
what's happening in the score 
and when. 

At $3.95 per score, Sheet 
Music Direct delivers a nice 
option for musicians who don't 
want to blow their budget on 
an expensive songbook that 
includes only one or two scores 
they actually want. 



Picture This Do-It-All Software 

Today, taking pictures isn't quite as challenging 
as managing them, particularly when our hard 
drives are jam-packed with hundreds or thousands of 
digital shots. Plenty of utilities are available that can 
help us edit or organize our pictures, but it's tough 
to find an easy-to-use program that does both well. 
Luminous Parrot Technologies claims to offer an "all- 
in-one digital photo organizer, manager, and photo 
creativity" utility with its Dream in Pictures software, 
so we put the software to the test to see if it fits the bill. 
Dream in Pictures gives you a wealth of sorting 

options after you import 
your pictures, including 
a timeline, a topic, and 
a rating system that 
uses stars and ribbons. 
Because we inevitably 
take dreadful shots along 
with divine shots, the 
rating system isn't a bad 
idea if you don't want 
to discard the dreadful 
shots altogether. You also can place pictures in a 
slideshow that's easy to customize, and if you want 
even more interactivity, you can create games based 
on your pictures. Another nifty feature is the 3D 
Gallery, which lets you "walk" through a virtual 
gallery in first-person mode to view your pictures 
on the walls. People can view or play these features 
using a free player that's included with the software 
and is available for download from the company's 
Web site. Also included is a nice variety of photo- 
editing tools with basic options such as sharpen, 
red-eye, and others that perform fairly well. 

The software's interface tries to be unique, 
but the lack of a standard menu-based system and 
toolbars can prove frustrating. Another con is the 
software's CPU utilization — switching between 
windows or simply sliding a window across the 
screen hits your processor hard even if your PC is 
well within the software's hefty system recommen- 
dations. But if you can live with the nonstandard 
interface and the occasional sluggish performance, 
you'll likely appreciate Dream in Pictures' impres- 
sive organizational and interactivity options. 

Dream in Pictures 

$49.95 • Luminous Parrot Technologies 

(425)748-5155 

http://www.luminousparrot.com 



8 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Technology News & Notes 



Handy App Delivers News, Sports & A/lore 



So you surf the Web and 
check your email with your 
Wi-Fi-enabled handheld, but 
surely there must be more you 
can do with a go-anywhere con- 
nection. Actually, there is, if 
you're using Handmark Express, 
an easy, quick way to access 
news, weather, sports, stocks, 
maps, directions, and more. 

This software is compatible 
with Palm OS and Windows 
Mobile smartphones and works 
as a direct Internet client, not 
a browser-based application, 
meaning you can generally get 
information faster than if you 
tried to retrieve it through Web 
sites. Available via subscription 
at http://express.handmark.com 
for $6.99 per month or $69.90 
per year, you'll receive the client 
software for your device along 
with a login ID and password 
that lets you connect to the 
Express proxy server. 

After testing the software on 
a Dell Axim, we marveled at the 
speed with which we could re- 
trieve information, regardless of 
what that information was. For 
example, when we mapped out 
local addresses, maps that were 
fully navigable in any direction 
appeared on-screen in mere sec- 
onds. News, weather, stocks, and 
sports were similarly quick, and 
we particularly liked the simple 
layout that works smoothly on 
a small screen. 

From the main menu, you can 
select a general category (such 
as News), which presents a new 
screen filled with the information 




Slim But Not Shady 



itself or subcategories (in this 
case, All Stories, Top Stories, 
Business, World, Entertainment, 
and others). Handmark Express 
lets you customize your choices, 
which can help trim your re- 
trieval time even further if you 
don't want various types of infor- 
mation. If you're a 
sports nut, the sub- 
scription seems easily 
worth the cost. You 
can receive all scores, 
schedules, and game 
updates from any 
major league 
sports, and the 
software even lets 
you customize the 
info for just the 

teams you want. The 41 1 option 
is similarly comprehensive, with 
reverse address and phone func- 
tions accompanying the typical 
search tools. 

Although you can get up- 
to-the-minute news, sports, 
stocks, and other data from 
the Web, Handmark Express 
may be worth the cost if you 
want your online information 
delivered fast and easy. 




Creative Technology's new MuVo Slim 256MB 
aims to blend both svelte size and looks with 
high-quality sound, and for the most part, it pulls it 
off. Most notable about the MuVo Slim is how small 
and light it really is. The unit weighs less than 2 
ounces with the included Li-Ion rechargeable battery 
and is only 0.3 inches thick. At about the same height 
and width as a credit card, the MuVo Slim fits easily 
into a shirt pocket, making it a convenient travel 
companion. Included with the player is a black 
leather carrying case and a set of uncomfortably large 
Creative earbuds that offer decent output. 

The 256MB of memory provides about four hours 
of MP3 music or 16 hours worth of recorded memos. 
Also included is an FM radio, complete with up to 32 
presets and an option to record broadcasts (although 
the recording quality for this isn't great). You can 
easily drag and drop music or data files directly onto 
the player using Windows 
Explorer, which is faster than 
using the bundled software, 
but you get more playlist 
arrangement options when 
using the software. Thanks to 
several equalizer presets, sound 
quality is fantastic for such a tiny 
unit; also impressive is the volume 
level, which is sufficiently loud for 
even the most extreme heavy metal enthusiasts. 
What we didn't like was the flimsy battery cover, 
which seems terribly out of place on an otherwise solid 
unit. In fact, our MuVo Slim didn't work unless we 
put constant heavy thumb pressure on the cover to 
push the battery into place — otherwise, the unit 
wouldn't turn on at all. If Creative can improve the 
quality of this small but crucial part, we'd certainly 
recommend the MuVo Slim for audiophiles on the go. 

Creative MuVo Slim 256MB 

$199.99 

Creative Technology 

(800)998-1000 

http://www.creative.com 



Duly Quoted 



"To make a swan would be 10 Ph.D.s worth of work/' 

-Carnegie Mellon graduate student Devin Balkcom describes the complexity involved in creating origami-making robots. 
Balkcom built a robot that can fold paper airplanes and pointed hats. (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) 



Smart Computing / August 2004 9 



Technology News & Notes 



New Products 



Compiled by Kylee Dickey 



Quick takes on the latest hardware and software to hit the market at press time. 
Manufacturers' and publishers' release dates are subject to change, so some of 
the products may not be available when you read this. 



Hardware 

1GB CompactFlash Elite Pro (CF/1024-S) 

Kingston • $249 

CompactFlash card with write speeds 

up to 5.2MBps and read speeds up 

to 6.1MBps 

(877) 546-4786; (714) 435-2600 

http://www.kingston.com 

15-inch ThinkPad 142 

IBM* $2,109 (and up) 
Notebook with 1,024- x 768-pixel res- 
olution, integrated Gigabit Ethernet, 
and CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive 




Cross That Bridge When 
You Come To It 

Sometimes you need to transfer 
data between two devices but don't 
have a computer handy to facilitate 
the transfer. For example, when a 
flash memory card is full, normally 
you cannot transfer the photos and 
reuse the card unless you have a 
PC nearby to which to transfer the 
images. However, with Delkin's 
USB Bridge, you can connect USB 
(Universal Serial Bus) devices and 
transfer data without the use of a 
PC. For example, you might copy 
photos from your digital camera 
to a USB flash drive by connecting 
both devices to the USB Bridge. 
Delkin's USB Bridge can connect a 
variety of USB devices, including 
MP3 players, external CD-R (CD- 
recordable) drives, external hard 
drives, digital cameras, memory 
card readers, and USB thumb drives 
($69.99; 800/637-8087; 858/391- 
1234; http://www.delkin.com). I 



(888) 746-7426; (914) 499-1900 
http://www.ibm.com 

64MB Micro MP3 Pro 

Kanguru Solutions • $74.95 
USB flash drive with built-in MP3 
player and voice recorder 
(888) 526-4878; (508) 376-4245 
http ://www.kanguru. com 

80GB 3.S-inch Combo ION Drive 

IOGEAR* $219.95 

External drive with both FireWire 800 

and Hi-Speed USB 2.0 connectivity 

(866) 946-4327; (949) 453-8782 

http://www.iogear.com 

2S6MB+Wi-Fi SD Combination Card 

SanDisk*$129 

An SD card with 802.11b connectivity 
(866) 726-3475; (408) 542-0500 
http : //www. sandisk. com 

Axim X30 

Dell* $199 

PDA with 312MHz Intel PXA270 CPU, 

240- x 320-pixel LCD, and Secure 

Digital slot 

(800) 999-3355; (512) 338-4400 

http://www.dell.com 

Bluetooth Combo Print Adapter (GBP301) 

IOGEAR* $129.95 

Send documents wirelessly from 

a Bluetooth- enabled computer 

to a printer 

(866) 946-4327; (949) 453-8782 

http://www.iogear.com 

ConvertXPX-AVWOU Video 
Capture Device 

Plextor • $79 

Transfer video from a VCR, camcorder, 

or other device to your PC 



Delkin USB Bridge 



(800) 886-3935; (510) 440-2000 
http://www.plextor.com 

E400 Projector 

IBM* $1,049 

DLP projector with a 1500:1 contrast 

ratio and 1,300-lumen output 

(888) 746-7426; (914) 499-1900 

http://www.ibm.com 

Floppy Plus 7-in-1 Card Reader 

Iomega • $59.95 

12-ounce card reader that 

supports CF-I/II, Microdrive, 

MMC, SD, SM, MS, MS Pro, 

and floppy diskettes 

(800) 697-8833; (412) 690-2100 

http://www.iomega.com 

HDD 160GB USB 2.0 Desktop Hard Drive 

Iomega* $199.95 

7,200rpm drive in a space-saving 

enclosure 

(800) 697-8833; (412) 690-2100 

http://www.iomega.com 

iFP-780 

iRiver* $129.99 

128MB MP3 player that provides 

up to 40 hours of battery life 

(800) 399-1799 

http : //www. ir iveramer ica. com 

RP-WF930-S Wireless Headphones 
with Surround Sound Control 

Panasonic • $99.99 

Wireless headphones come 

with a recharging stand and 

have built-in surround sound 

features 

(800) 332-5368; (201) 348-7000 

http://www.panasonic.com 



10 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Technology News & Notes 



W320 

WinBook- $1,599 

15.4-inch WXGA widescreen notebook 
with Intel Centrino technology, in- 
cluding 1.5GHz Pentium M processor 
and Intel Wireless Pro 2200 with 
802. 1 1 b/g connectivity 
(800) 254-7806; (614) 334-1496 
http://www.winbook.com 

Wireless-G Notebook Network Short Card 

IOGEAR • $49.95 

Network card so small that you can leave 
it in your notebook when you travel 
(866) 946-4327; (949) 453-8782 
http : // www. iogear.com 

Software 

CalliGrapher 6.6 for Handheld PCs 

PhatWare • $39.95 
Handwriting recognition for print 
and cursive characters 
(650) 559-5600 
http://www.phatware.com 

CaptureWizPro 3.0 

PixelMetrics • $29.95 

Takes screen shots that are usually 

hard to capture, such as images of 

screen savers and video 

(877) 423-3541; (303) 423-3541 

http://www.pixelmetrics.com 

CorrectPhoto 

PictoColor • $39.95 

Organize, color correct, edit, share, 

and back up your digital images 

(952) 894-6247 

http://www.picto.com 

Creative Xtreme 2004 Bundle 

Auto FX Software • $199 
Collection of photo - editing plug- ins 
includes DreamSuite Series One, 
DreamSuite Gel Series, KnockOut 2.0, 
KPT Collection (KPT 5/6/7), and Bryce 5 
(800) 839-2008; (205) 980-0056 
http://www.autofx.com 

IntelHGolf 3.6 for Sony Ericsson P800 
and P900 Smartphones 



Find Your Family Roots 
Just Like Magic 

Those who have been researching 
their genealogy for a few years have 
probably heard of the popular but 
now discontinued genealogy soft- 
ware Family Origins. Last year, Family 
Origins fans rejoiced as Family Ori- 
gins' creator Bruce Buzbee released a 
new program, RootsMagic, designed 
to help the genealogist research, or- 
ganize, and present a family history. 
This year, the fledgling RootsMagic 
returns with version 2.0, which in- 
cludes a number of significant im- 
provements, including wizards for 
publishing a complete family history 
book. RootsMagic 2.0 also adds 
many new templates for recording 
sources and creating wall charts up 
to 57 feet wide. Plus, users will find 
new tools for resolving conflicts 
among data sources. Although 
RootsMagic has the advanced fea- 
tures serious genealogists need, its 
simple design makes it equally ideal 
for the novice genealogist ($29.95; 
877/766-8762; 801/489-3102; 
http://www.rootsmagic.com). I 



Karrier Communications • $29.95 

Now you can keep track of your 

golf scores and statistics on your 

Symbian OS smartphone 

(530) 676-9279 

http : //www. intelligolf . com 



j.muA^mi 




RootsMagic 2.0 



Office 2004 For Mac (Standard) 

Microsoft • $399.95 

Adds Project Center, Excel page 

layout view, and improved 

compatibility checks 

(800) 426-9400; (425) 882-8080 

http://www.microsoft.com/mac 

PhatNotes Smartphone Edition 

PhatWare • $29.95 

Take notes on your Windows 

Mobile-based smartphone 

(650) 559-5600 

http://www.phatware.com 

PhotoSurface 2.0 

Human Software • $49.95 
Photo -editing plug-in that adds 
textures to images 
http://www.humansoftware.com 

pop-pop for Windows 

Ambrosia Software • $25 

Use a paddle to break bricks in this 

game that you can play alone, against 

the computer, or over the Internet 

(585)325-1910 

http://www.ambrosiasw.com 

ReadingBar 2 For Internet Explorer 

ReadPlease • $79.95 

Internet Explorer toolbar that will read 

Web page text aloud 

(807) 474-7702 

http://www.readingbar.com 

Topo USA 5.0 

DeLorme • $99.95 
Mapping software with USGS 
(U.S. Geological Survey) topo- 
graphic maps, aerial photos, and 
satellite images 

(800) 561-5105; (207) 846-7000 
http://www.delorme.com 

VideoStudio 8 

Ulead • $99.99 

Popular CD/DVD movie software 

now includes a MovieWizard to add 

intro graphics, transitions, text, music, 

and end graphics 

(800) 858-5323; (310) 896-6388 

http://www.ulead.com 



Smart Computing / August 2004 11 




GoToMyPC 



Access Your PC from Anywhere' 




Full Web-based remote access and control 
No pre-installed client software needed 
Automatic 2-minute one-time setup 
Works automatically with firewalls 
128-bit end-to-end AES encryption 
Real-time desktop collaboration 
FREE tech support & upgrades for life 




Try It Free 

gotomypc.com/computing2 



800.831 .5930 



Tech Diaries 



Computerized Workout 

The FitSense System Offers Stats Galore 



Nathan Chandler 

Send insights and insults 

to Nathan at 

nathan@smartcomputing.com 




FS-1 Speedometer 

$224.99 

FitSense 

(800)419-3667 

(508)303-8811 

http://www.fitsense.com 



The FitSense FS-1 system is a computer- 
aided fitness technology that helps quan- 
tify your running or walking efforts as you 
work toward a long-term fitness goal. It's not 
a souped-up pedometer; it's a complex dig- 
ital system that can help you fine-tune your 
body for a marathon or just give you a better 
understanding of how much exercise you're 
really getting on your nightly walks. 

The Complete System 

This FitSense system includes every- 
thing you need to hone your exercise reg- 
imen. In the box you get a 
watch with an oversized 
LCD (liquid-crystal dis- 
play), foot pod, heart 
rate monitor, and a 
NetLink peripheral for 
your PC. For $50 less, you 
can buy the kit without a 
NetLink, and you can subtract another 
$50 if you also leave out the heart mon- 
itor. To keep this story computer-related, 
I used the entire system. 

In short, the FS-1 works like this. The 
watch tracks and stores all vital statistics, 
including speed, calories burned, distance, 
and much more, as you run. It keeps tabs 
on these numbers by receiving data from 
the foot pod and heart rate monitor, which 
send radio signals to the watch. 

After your workout, you place the watch 
next to the NetLink device (which con- 
nects to your PC through a 9 -pin serial 
port), and the watch transfers your 
workout data to your PC. Then you can 
use your PC to check out the numbers on 
that day's workout. 

On The Run 

There are a couple of important steps you 
have to take before you can begin using the 
FS-1. First, you have to read the manual. 
This is a tedious but necessary step to using 



the complex FS-1, but FitSense makes things 
as easy as possible with its clearly written 
and well-diagrammed manual. You'll be lost 
without the information you find here. 

Second, you have to calibrate the FS-1 
for your particular stride. This step is cru- 
cial in making the FS- 1 your own, and it's 
the reason the system is more accurate 
than common $10 pedometers. To cali- 
brate the foot pod and watch, you need 
either a treadmill or the track at a nearby 
school. Because treadmills aren't them- 
selves always carefully calibrated, it's best 
to use a track to set up the FS-1, and to do 
so, you run or walk at your usual pace. 
This brings to mind one of the system's 
minor downfalls: You can only calibrate 
the watch for one user at a time. That 
means your spouse can't expect accurate 
readouts if he borrows the watch for an 
evening stroll. 

Once you've completed the calibration, 
it's time to put the FS-1 to work. To do so, 
make sure the foot pod is securely fastened 
to your shoe (a tight-fitting but easy-to-use 
elastic band does the job), strap on the 
heart monitor, and snug up the watch- 
band. Make sure your watch is receiving 
data from the pod and heart monitor and 
get busy. 

Job Well Done 

To transfer your workout stats to the 
computer, put the watch next to the 
NetLink, and your computer uses the 
FitSense software to retrieve your workout 
data. If you're connected to the Internet, 
the software uploads this data to your 
profile on the FitSense Web site. Using 
this site, you can view graphs that show 
your speed, pace, total distance, calories 
burned, and more. This gives you an in- 
depth look at your overall performance, 
helps you plan future workouts, and lets 
you look back on older data to see how 
much you've improved. 

The online feature really rounds out the 
FS-1, making it an excellent investment for 
people who really need to put numbers to 
their exercise routine. Though it's pricey, 
the FitSense system is perfect for people 
who are serious about marathon training 
or simply staying fit. II 



14 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Tech Diaries 



The Battle Of The Bulge 

Hypersonic Aviator AX6 vs. ThinkPad X40 



Chad Denton 

Send Chad your opinions at 
chad@smartcomputing.com 




ThinkPad X40 

$2,299 

IBM 

(888) 746-7426 

(914)499-1900 

http://www.ibm.com 




Aviator AX6 

$2,753 

Hypersonic 

(800) 520-0498 

(516)498-9277 

http://www.hypersonic-pc.com 



According to the Rolling Stones, you can't 
always get what you want but sometimes 
you get what you need. If that song were re- 
leased today, I might think that the song was 
about mobile technology. Choosing the right 
notebook, for instance, may not be so much 
about getting everything you want, but 
rather getting everything you need. 

Notebook manufacturers make notebooks 
with a range of specs and sizes in an attempt 
to appeal to different users. These notebooks 
get pigeonholed into one of three categories 
depending on size: ultraportable; thin and 
light; and desktop replacement. I took a look 
at two polar opposites, Hypersonic's Aviator 
AX6 and IBM's ThinkPad X40. 

Around The House 

The Hypersonic Aviator AX6 is one of few 
notebooks to feature a 64-bit AMD pro- 
cessor. The 2.2GHz Athlon 64 3400+ DTR is 
a mobile version of AMD's desktop Athlon 
64 processor. You can't take advantage of the 
64-bit processor as the OS (operating system) 
and applications are written for more com- 
mon 32-bit processors. But the Athlon 64 
3400+ DTR still performed impressively. 

The AX6 includes an ATI Mobility 
Radeon 9600 video chip with 128MB of 
video memory. The 9600 is outdone by ATI's 
9700 model, but it can still deliver some de- 
cent performance. The 15-inch display offers 
a sharp looking SXGA+ (Super Extended 
Graphics Array; 1,400 x 1,050) resolution. 

The AX6 isn't the bulkiest notebook I've 
ever seen, but it's fairly large. The AX6 is 1.62 
inches high (with the lid closed) x 13.07 
inches wide x 1 1.22 inches deep, and at 7.9 
pounds, the AX6 can still give you a decent 
workout if you lug it around. The three hours 
of battery life wasn't bad for a larger system. 

On The Road 

The X40 is a sharp contrast to the AX6. 
Closed, the system measures just 0.94 inches 



x 10.5 inches x 9.32 inches, and it weighs just 
3.2 pounds. The secret to its small stature is 
compact and energy efficient components 
such as a 1.2GHz Low- Voltage Pentium M 
processor. All this efficiency gets the X40 
more than six hours of battery life with the 
optional 8-cell battery. 

The energy efficient components, how- 
ever, don't provide a lot of performance. The 
X40 was noticeably slower to start up. The 
small size also means there's no room for an 
integrated optical drive. Some X40 systems 
come with an IBM X4 Ultrabase Dock that 
clips to the bottom of the X40. The Ultrabase 
includes an optical drive, but it adds a little 
size and weight to the otherwise svelte X40. It 
was most convenient to leave the Ultrabase 
on my desk and use it as a docking station. 

The X40's small size means a smaller dis- 
play. I certainly preferred the larger display 
on the AX6 to the 12.1 -inch display on the 
X40. The keyboard on the X40 was also 
smaller and a bit more difficult to adjust to. 

Final Word 

I found myself leaving the AX6 on my 
desk and using it as a desktop. The system is 
just too heavy to move much, and it runs a 
lot hotter than the X40. The AX6 is great for 
playing games, and I was excited by the pos- 
sibility of playing games in the living room 
or even the kitchen. In practice, however, the 
notebook, AC adapter (which you'll need if 
you plan on playing for any period of time), 
and a controller or mouse proved too cum- 
bersome to move. 

Despite its slower performance, I pre- 
ferred the X40. If you have a wireless net- 
work, you can easily surf the Web as you 
carry the X40 from room to room. Its small 
size makes it easy to carry with you. I even 
used a cassette adapter to play MP3 files on 
the X40 through my car's stereo system. 

If I had to choose between the two sys- 
tems, I'd probably opt for the X40. It's not 
about getting what you want; it's about get- 
ting what you need. I needed the portability 
of the X40 more than the performance 
of the AX6. Besides, the X40 is significantly 
cheaper. If you're into performance, how- 
ever, you may find it easier to deal with the 
size and weight of the AX6 than the perfor- 
mance of the X40. II 



Smart Computing / August 2004 15 



Tech Diaries 



Just When You Thought 
Six Was Enough 

Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-F828 
Fits 8 Megapixels Into An Attractive Body 



Kylee Dickey 

Send your comments to 
kylee@smartcomputing.com 




Cyber-shot DSC-F828 

$999.95 

Sony 

(877) 865-7669 

(408)432-1600 

http://www.sonystyle.com 



Just when the digital camera market looked 
to be stabilizing with 6MP (megapixel) 
cameras as top consumer-level cameras, 
Sony released its Cyber-shot DSC-F828, the 
8MP successor to the DSC-F717. 1 was not 
the only one to notice. Sony put me on a list 
for the camera the week it was announced, 
and now it was my turn to take it for a spin. 

The Cyber-shot's Extreme Makeover 

The F828 has a more professional look 
than the F717. The F828's body is more 
stylized and made of a black magnesium 
alloy. Whereas you used a pair of electronic 
zoom buttons on the F717, you zoom with 
the F828 as you would with an SLR (single- 
lens reflex): mechanically, by twisting the 
ring of the barrel. This provides greater 
control over zoom increments. 

The F828 adds a backlit LCD (liquid- 
crystal display) that displays the battery indi- 
cator, number of shots remaining, aperture, 
shutter speed, flash mode, and more. 

The F828 also has an impressive list of 
specs. It has an 8MP effective CCD (charge- 
coupled device), 7X optical zoom, and a Carl 
Zeiss f/2.0 - f/8.0 lens with a focal length of 
7.1mm - 51mm (28mm - 200mm equivalent 
with a 35mm camera). 

The F828 adds support for Memory Stick 
PRO cards (as well as Memory Sticks) and 
CF-I/II (CompactFlash Type I and II) cards 
and Microdrives. The F828 also has Hi-Speed 
USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0. The camera is 
PictBridge- enabled for PC-free printing from 
PictBridge-compatible printers. 

The F828 has a rechargeable InfoLithium 
battery. The battery indicator displays re- 
maining battery life and the number of min- 
utes of usage remaining. When you plug the 
camera into the supplied AC adapter, the 
camera's built-in charger charges the battery. 



In Action 

The F828 looks barrel-heavy, but it's com- 
fortable to use. The trick is to cup your hand 
under the barrel. This supports the camera 
and puts controls on the barrel within reach. 
You can tilt the barrel to take photos at angles 
that would otherwise require acrobatics. 

A Quick View button would be a nice ad- 
dition as it would let a user review photos 
sans turning the mode dial to Play. Settings 
such as manual aperture, manual shutter 
speed (30 seconds to 1/2,000 second), and 
manual focus provide considerable control. 

Image quality was a disappointment. In- 
door photos, particularly those under fluo- 
rescent lights, had a yellowish-pink tint. The 
Custom WB setting corrected the problems, 
as did shooting in natural lighting. 

Many photos displayed purple halos called 
chromatic aberrations. There were more with 
the F828 than with Canon's PowerShot G5, 
which was widely criticized for purple halos 
There is quite a bit of barrel distortion in the 
F828, but this is common with long barrels. 

The most noticeable problem with image 
quality is noise. Darker areas were often 
grainy. The culprit is likely the 8MP sensor. 
The F828's CCD is the same size as the 
5MP F717's sensor. Each light-sensitive 
photosite on the F828's sensor is smaller as 
the CCD captures an additional 3 million 
pixels of data. Because the photosites are 
smaller, they may not register as much 
light, leading to image distortion. Other 
8MP cameras don't suffer from such noise. 
The F828 was one of the first 8MP cameras 
to hit the market, and it looks like Sony 
may have rushed the technology. 

The F828 does capture excellent photos 
with vivid colors in outdoor shots. Night 
Framing mode is a fun feature that lets you 
take photos in the dark. 

The F828 Revealed 

Users comfortable with adjusting settings 
such as aperture and white balance can work 
around some of the F828's image-quality 
problems and get a good value from the 
F828. But users who want the camera to do 
most of the work should look at other brands 
or wait for Sony to release its second genera- 
tion of 8MP cameras. II 



16 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Tech Diaries 



Find A Guinea Pig Geek 

Let Your Techie Friend Try New Products 



Joshua Gulick 

Send your comments to 
joshua@smartcomputing.com 




Like it or not, the technology we use in our 
daily lives is becoming increasingly privy 
to our personal lives. Some technological in- 
novations that require personal information 
are mostly beneficial, such as a car door that 
unlocks when it recognizes its owner's fin- 
gerprints. But many devices and programs 
are double-edged, offering a benefit while re- 
quiring personal information. Those handy 
grocery store discount cards, for example, let 
shoppers save money, but also let retailers 
track consumer shopping habits. Cookies let 
us view certain Web sites and online forums 
without repeatedly entering usernames and 
passwords, but also let site authors and other 
organizations grab our digital profile. Credit 
cards let us shop quickly, but thanks to the 
Internet, malicious users sometimes break 
into organizations' databases and steal our 
precious credit card information. 

Upcoming gizmos promise to create even 
more security risks. For example, RFID 
(radio frequency identification) tags are 
small devices (some RFID tags are no larger 
than a grain of rice) that store information. 
Store employees can use a wireless scanning 
device to find RFID tags and access their 
data. These tags make great inventory 
tracking tools. They aren't widely popular 
yet, but with backers such as retail giant Wal- 
Mart, it's probably just a matter of time. 
Thus, a tech-sawy Spanish nightclub injects 
the tags into willing customers who use the 
tags as credit cards when buying drinks. 

Two new products that are giving many 
consumers the jitters are camera phones and 
Google's forthcoming email service, Gmail. 
Camera phones are ordinary mobile phones 
that have tiny, built-in digital cameras. 
Although their picture quality can't compete 
with many full-sized digital cameras, camera 
phones offer several benefits that the larger 
cameras don't. Assuming you carry your 
mobile phone regularly, you'll have the 
camera handy when you want to take spur- 
of-the-moment photos, whereas someone 
without a camera phone needs to lug a 



camera around to catch impromptu pics. 
Also, mobile phone services let you send pic- 
tures from your phone to another phone, 
which means that instead of just calling 
home to make sure you're about to buy the 
right noodles, you can send a confirmation 
picture. Ah, the joys of technology. 

When the free email service Gmail ar- 
rives (Google is already testing the service 
at http://www.gmail.google.com) it will 
boast 1GB of space per user, which dwarfs 
other services' 1MB to 10MB of space. But 
Gmail will have another feature that other 
services lack: content-based advertising. 
Gmail will scan your personal emails for 
certain keywords and then place related ads 
in the email. Sure, humans aren't reading 
your messages, but do you want to share 
them even with a computer? 

Short of leaving all electronics behind and 
pitching a permanent tent in the wild, con- 
sumers can't stop the flood of technology, in- 
trusive or otherwise. However, we can choose 
how we approach it. We can, and many 
people do, dismiss new technology out of 
hand. Why take the risk of being forced to 
leave your phone at the door of a restaurant, 
my less geeky friends ask. Why work out at a 
gym that allows camera phones? Why let even 
a program read your personal email? There 
are plenty of cameraless mobile phones and 
word-scanner-free email services, which 
means that you can ignore these privacy is- 
sues, at least for now. But as these and other 
intrusive technologies become more 
common, you'll find it harder to avoid them 
and you may find yourself weighing their 
pros and cons again. 

There's no need to be at the bleeding edge 
of every trend, but keeping an eye on new 
technology via a friend means you'll be in a 
better position to choose a device or service if 
you find that you need it down the road. To 
that end, several of my friends and family 
members have designated me as their tech- 
nology guinea pig. Instead of trying the next 
big thing, they ask me about it, knowing that 
I, a geek to the core, am only too happy to try 
out the new technology first. They watch, 
risk- free, and then make informed purchase 
decisions. So if you're reluctant to dive into 
the next big technology trend, keep your eyes 
and ears open when the family techie whips 
out her latest geek toy. II 



Smart Computing / August 2004 17 



Software Head-To-Head 

Cooking & Recipe Apps 



Bon Appetit 

Turn Your PC Into A Master Cookbook 



met the minimum system require- 
ments of every program we tested. 



Cookbook Wizard For Windows 2.0 



$17.95 (download); $23.95 (CD) 
MicroBlast Software 
http://www.cookbookwizard.com 




Easily create, 
store, and 
organize 

your recipe 

collection 

■ 

Complete 

nutritional 

analysis 

■ 

"Capture" 
recipes from 
the Internet 

■ 

Hundreds of 
recipes 

included 

■ 

Rate and 
review your 
own recipes 



August 2004 Smart Choice • Living Cookbook 



As the saying goes, if you can't 
stand the heat, get out of the 
kitchen . . . and onto the computer? 
OK, so that's not how the saying 
goes, but what's hot in food prepara- 
tion these days isn't in the kitchen; 
it's wherever you keep your PC. 
Say good-bye to batter-spattered 
cookbooks with missing pages and 
say hello to the hottest innovations 
in cookbooks: cooking and recipe 
software. 

Cooking apps take recipe folders to 
a new level. They store family recipes, 
add new ones, and let you more easily 
manage your recipes. Cooking apps 
help with menu planning, shopping 
lists, and nutritional information. To 
aid you in choosing a program that 



works best with your PC and your 
kitchen, here's a rundown of four pop- 
ular programs. 

The Four Entrees 

Dozens of quality cooking applica- 
tions are on the market today. It was a 
difficult decision, but we ultimately 
narrowed the list down to four that 
offer useful features and options. 
We considered many criteria in evalu- 
ating each program, with the focus 
being on ease of use and product 
features. We installed each program 
on a Windows XP machine with a 
1.28GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 
128MB of RAM, and approximately 
65GB of free hard drive space. This PC 



If ease of use is high on your priority 
list when shopping for cooking applica- 
tions, Cookbook Wizard is a must- see. 
The intuitive interface is easy to work 
with from the get-go, with basic com- 
mands at the top and tabs denoting im- 
portant sections just beneath them. For 
instance, you can click a tab to browse 
recipes by cuisine (Caribbean Pork 
Roast or Asian Noodle Salad, anyone?) 
or category, such as dairy or seafood. 
You can cut down on shopping trips by 
using the search engine to look for 
recipes that contain ingredients you 
have at home or to reject recipes that 
contain ingredients you or someone 
else may be allergic to. And the soft- 
ware gives you multiple display op- 
tions, such as Display Recipes By Entry 
Date or Display Duplicate Recipe 
Names, which make it easy to view the 
software's contents. 

Cookbook Wizard comes with about 
700 recipes, beginning with Angel 
Shrimp Scampi and ending with 
Zucchini Soup. Each recipe is organized 
by information fields, and you can tell at 
a glance the main ingredient, the 
number of servings, the preparation 
method, the preparation time, the type 
of cuisine, the food group, the difficulty 
level, the food temperature, and other 
factors. Select a recipe, and its individual 
card lists ingredients and instructions 
and allows you to add your own com- 
ments. Manually add your own recipes 



k the items from your favorite rs 



d print your shopping li< 

ETT 1*1 




, Find Display Manage Print r»L Help 

'■mnp Scampi 
| Recipe List | Cuisine Search | Category Search | View Recipe | Phctc ShopList^ 








18 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Reviews 




or import them from other sources, in- 
cluding tens of thousands of recipes on 
the Cookbook Wizard Web site. 

Many of the recipes include nutri- 
tional information. Dieters will be 
happy to discover the Asparagus Soup 
has only 90 calories per serving, as well 
as four grams of protein and 12% of the 
USDA's recommended allowance of vi- 
tamins A and C. Sounds good, but wait 
a minute. Don't have any asparagus in 
the house? Add it to the shopping list 
with two button clicks. Cookbook 
Wizard builds a shopping list from 
recipes or general items you add, and 
the software automatically saves lists. 
Use the Print command to print your 
shopping list or use it to print recipes to 
assemble into a hard-copy cookbook. 

Cookbook Wizard includes a virtual 
spice rack. Select a spice name and see 
a list of foods that contain that spice 
or select a recipe and view the spices it 
contains. The software also features a 
glossary, where you can learn Little 
Miss Muffet was really eating a coagu- 
lation of milk- or egg-based foods re- 
sulting from their separation into a 
watery liquid and clumps of semisolid 
material. (Yum!) 

Cookbook Wizard requires Win- 
dows 9x/NT 4.0/2000/Me/XP. Down- 
load a free 30-day trial on the Web site. 



Cook'n With Betty Crocker 



$29.95 (CD) 
DVO Enterprises 
(801)492-1290 
http://www.dvo.com 

Cook'n With Betty Crocker is just 
one in a series of titles in the Cook'n 
line. DVO Enterprises claims Cook'n 



is the best- selling recipe software today, 
and while we can't independently verify 
that claim, we certainly understand why 
the software is so popular. Photographs 
and video clips, a monthly e-newsletter 
for registered users, and a personal 
email invitation from the company 
president to telephone him are just 
some of the reasons why. 

The software seems to have a person- 
ality, as you'll see as soon as you launch 
it. A nearly full- page color photo ap- 
pears with simple menu commands and 
tabs (Recipes, Menu, Planner, List, 
Foods, and more) at the top. Video tips 
appear at start up, and they show you 
useful tricks such as how to measure 
spaghetti (fill a circle with your thumb 
and forefinger for about two servings) 
and how to crack an egg (break it on 
the counter before adding it to other in- 
gredients to avoid eggshells in food). 

Cook'n With Betty Crocker in- 
cludes about 1,000 recipes from, not 
surprisingly, "Betty Crocker's Cook- 
book." You can browse, search, delete, 
edit, copy, create, and categorize 
them, and most of the recipes include 
mouthwatering photographs. Plus, a 
select few include how-to videos. For 
example, before making the Cheesy 
Bacon Quiche, click the Play Video 
button to watch an expert create a 
Bisquick crust. Add your own recipes, 
automatically adjust serving sizes, 
print recipes onto cards, or send them 
via email to friends and family. 

One of the software's strengths lies in 
its meal- and menu-planning features. 
You can create weekly menus by simply 
dragging meals or recipes to the weekly 
menu list. If you're more ambitious, 
create a yearlong menu. Use these 
menus or individual recipes to create 
shopping lists, which you 
can print or download to a 
Palm-based handheld de- 
vice. Plus, the shopping as- 
sistant can group items by 
grocery story aisle and calculate the ap- 
proximate cost of your shopping list. 
Notable Cook'n With Betty Crocker 
features include a personal home nu- 
tritionist that analyzes nutritional 



elements of recipes and brand compar- 
ison of ingredients. 

Cook'n titles require Win9x/NT 
4.0/2000/Me/XP, 8MB RAM, 10MB 
hard drive space, and a CD-ROM drive. 
After purchasing one of the basic titles 
via download or CD (we recommend 
the CD because the download version 
does not include photos or video clips), 
you can supplement by downloading 
additional recipe sets for a fee. The on- 
line Cook'n wizard will guide you 
through the purchasing process. 



Living Cookbook 



$29.95 

Radium Technologies 

info@RadiumTechnologies.com 

http://www.livingcookbook.com 

We don't know why the company 
called it Living Cookbook, but the 
name may reflect the community of 
users. Log on to the Living Cookbook 
Web site, and you'll find thousands of 
involved users exchanging recipes, tips, 
techniques, and more. And what makes 
so many people interested in this soft- 
ware? We're betting it's the wide range 
of features and easy-to-use interface. 

Let's start with the heart of any cook- 
book software program: the recipes. 
When you first install the software, 
you'll have about 200 Quick And Easy 
recipes, with photos and detailed de- 
scriptions, and you can add hundreds 
of others from your own collection, im- 
port them from other programs, or 
copy them from Web sites. Download 
free cookbooks, such as the Diabetic 



ivmff 



intir 



Smart 

AUGUST2004 SMART CHOKE 



Computing 



X 






Easily create, 
stone, and 
organize 

your recipe 
collection 

■ 
Complete 
nnlritfona] 

nruilWs 

■ 

"Capture" 

recipes from 

the Internet 

■ 

Hundreds of 

recipes 

included 

■ 

Rate and 

review your 

own recipes 


A 



Smart Computing / August 2004 19 



Reviews 



Recipes or Special Occasion cookbooks, 
from the Living Cookbook Web site, 
along with hundreds of thousands of 
recipes in the user forums. Search 
recipes by name, ingredient, recipe type, 
or keyword. Automatically scale recipes; 
convert ingredients; and customize 
layout, fonts, and formatting. The com- 
pany is also planning a companion Web 
site that will allow users to download 
even more free recipes. 

Obtain more detailed information 
about recipes, thanks to the nutrition 
calculator. This tool calculates the nu- 
tritional value of ingredients, recipes, 
meals, and menus (yes, the software 
allows you to easily plan meals and 
menus). And you'll learn, for ex- 
ample, the Herbed Chevre Spread 
contains only 45 calories, but its 1.72 
grams of saturated fat is 9% of the 
USDA's recommended daily value. 

The spread contains a clove of garlic, 
and if you click its listing, you'll be 
swept to the garlic page. Did you know 
that along with onion, garlic was fed to 
thousands workers engaged in building 
the great pyramid of Cheops? That's 
just one of the many interesting facts 
you'll find in the ingredient database. 
The database covers more than 6,000 
ingredients, including a detailed nutri- 
tional analysis of each one. Learn more 
about cooking by visiting the Cooking 
Reference Library, the section of the 
software that serves up glossary listings 
and cooking techniques. Other tools 
Living Cookbook carries include a data- 
base backup, unit converter, Web site 
database, and various display options. 

We don't want to overlook two im- 
portant components of the software: 
the grocery list features and the cook- 
book publishing. Create shopping lists, 
recipe cards, and even entire cookbooks 
with just a few mouse clicks and a 
printer. If you run into any technical 
difficulties, the help file has more than 
300 topics, and the online community 
forums are active. 

Living Cookbook's system require- 
ments include Win9x/NT 4.0/2000/ 
Me/XP and 45 MB hard drive space. 
Upgrades are free. 




Now You're Cooking! 



$25 (CD; $30 includes any upgrades) 

Loginetics 

sales@ffts.com 

http://www.rfts.com 

If you're comfortable using PC 
shareware, this may be the program for 
you. The program and its Web site have 
a sparse feel, but don't let the lack of 
photos or fancy tutorials turn you away. 
The Now You're Cooking (NYC) soft- 
ware does what it intends to do — pro- 
vide you with an easy way to manage 
recipes, meal planning, shopping lists, 
and more — and it does it well. 

Let's look at the recipe-related fea- 
tures. NYC starts with just a few recipes, 
but you can download more than 
158,000 free recipes from the Web site. 
Organize them into an unlimited 
number of cookbooks, create and edit 
category listings, search recipes on a 
range of criteria, mark recipes for future 
reference, check for duplicate recipes, 
resize them by multiples or serving 
sizes, and export them to text files. 

NYC doesn't stop there. It includes a 
number of meal-planning features, 
such as the ability to create multiple 
menus across multiple cookbooks, use a 
pop- up calendar, and create a shopping 
list from a meal plan. The shopping list 
is also easy to use, with the ability to 
add or delete items, convert from frac- 
tions to decimals, sort by grocery store 
aisle, and even look for coupons you 
have stored on your PC. 



The nutrition database, which con- 
tains more than 6,200 items, provides 
analysis on recipes, meals, and menus, 
and it can analyze any recipe from any 
source. And NYC's cost-management 
features, including the shopping list 
cost comparison for multiple stores, 
can save shoppers money. NYC lets 
you print almost any information in 
the program. 

NYC's system requirements include 
Win9x/NT/2000/Me/XP. 

And Now, For Dessert 

Each of the programs we reviewed 
impressed us — each had useful features 
and was relatively easy to learn. We ap- 
preciated the huge database of recipes 
NYC offers, Cookbook Wizard's easy- 
to-use interface, and the helpful person- 
ality of Cook'n With Betty Crocker. We 
balanced the cost, features, and inter- 
face and decided on Living Cookbook 
as this month's Smart Choice. II 

by Heidi V.Anderson 



Buying Tips 



Consider the entire cost of pur- 
chasing the software. Two programs 
that may at first glance appear to cost 
the same may ultimately be priced 
much differently, depending on 
whether you must purchase up- 
grades or additional cookbooks. 
There are many manufacturers in 
this market and you don't want 
to invest a great deal of energy 
adding your own recipes to find the 
software doesn't work next year. 
While there's no surefire way to tell 
whether a company will be around, 
it doesn't hurt to examine the 
company's track record. 
Keep in mind that the demo copy 
of the software may not accurately 
reflect the depth of the product. 
We downloaded several trial 
versions and compared them to the 
CD versions to find they lacked 
graphics, the ability to add recipes, 
and other features. I 



20 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Software Reviews 



Fight Fire With Firefox 



Mozilla Firefox 



The Mozilla Organization 
http://www.mozilla.org 



Anyone who had an in- 
terest in the technology 
industry during the mid- 
to late- 1990s spent a con- 
siderable amount of time 
taking sides in the so-called 
Browser War. The lengthy 
battle between Netscape, the 
company that brought the 
browser to the masses, and 
Microsoft, the software be- 
hemoth that wanted a piece 
of the growing online ac- 
tion, did much to fuel Web 
innovation as each company 
raced to expand its audience 
by releasing new versions 
packed full of new features. 
Microsoft prevailed in the 
end for one very good rea- 
son: Its browser, Internet 
Explorer, came bundled for 
free with every version of 
Windows Microsoft sold. 

IE still comes bundled 
free with every version of 
Windows, and 80% of all 
computer users depend on it 
as their primary browser. 
Netscape's share of the 
market has dwindled to 
practically nothing — less 
than 5% by most mea- 
sures — but its influence con- 
tinues thanks to the Mozilla 
project. Netscape unoffi- 
cially launched the project in 
1998 when it announced 
that it would publish the 
source code for Netscape 
Navigator. Six years later, 
Mozilla is on the verge of 



sites within a single 
Firefox window rather 
than opening separate 
windows for the sites you 
want to access. The open 
sites are identified by tabs 




releasing Firefox (formerly 
referred to as Firebird), a 
critically acclaimed open- 
source browser that could 
spur a second Browser War. 

There's certainly a lot to 
like about Mozilla Firefox, 
starting with its lean 6.2MB 
download. In contrast, the 
latest IE download is weigh- 
ed down by as much as 
75MB of bloated features 
and commercial add-ons 
that many users simply do 
not need. Instead of bulk, the 
Mozilla developers focused 
their efforts on providing 
only those capabilities that 
users most appreciate. For 
example, the sleek interface 
boasts a built-in Google 
search menu and a hidden 
pop- up blocker to go along 
with the handful of petite 
navigational buttons and the 
requisite address bar. The in- 
clusion of the ad blocker and 
search menu saves you the 
hassle of downloading third- 
party add-ons, such as the 
Yahoo! Companion Toolbar 
or the Google Toolbar, that 
do the same thing. 

Another thing about 
Firefox that we particularly 
liked is the tabbed browsing 
feature. This feature allows 
you to open multiple Web 



mozilla 



near the top of the browser 
window so that you can ac- 
cess each one with a single 
click. The browser also fea- 
tures an integrated down- 
load manager that helps you 
handle your downloads by, 
among other things, al- 
lowing you to specify a per- 
manent download folder 
and establish file associa- 
tions. Firefox isn't the first 
browser to offer tabbed 
browsing and a download 
manager, but we certainly 
appreciate the features 
whenever they're available. 

Other features worth 
mentioning include Type 
Ahead Find, a shortcut fea- 
ture that lets you access 
hypertext (text-based hy- 
perlinks) shortcuts simply 
by typing a few letters on 
the keyboard; a Password 
Manager that remembers 
your passwords and enters 
them in the appropriate 
fields whenever necessary; 
toolbars that are complete- 
ly customizable; a large 
viewing window that Mo- 
zilla claims is at least 4% 
larger than IE's viewing 
window and 10% larger 
than Opera's; download- 
able themes; and a Book- 
marks Manager that lets 



you sort bookmarks by 
name, location, date added, 
date last visited, and several 
other criteria. We also en- 
joyed the advanced Web 
Features function, which 
makes it possible to 
avoid many of the 
Web annoyances 
caused by scripts 
(small programs 
designed to per- 
form particular 
functions), such as 
unsolicited modifi- 
cations to the size 
of the browser window or 
image content. 

Mozilla Firefox 0.8 is a 
preview product. As with 
any preview product, this 
one will undoubtedly un- 
dergo several changes before 
the final version is released. 
A Mozilla spokesperson in- 
formed us that prerelease 
modifications will include a 
new default interface; im- 
provements in the way the 
program handles extensions 
(small programs that add in- 
creased functionality to an- 
other program); the ability 
to migrate users' book- 
marks, passwords, and even 
cookies to Firefox from 
Netscape and Microsoft 
browsers; the addition of an 
automated update notifica- 
tion feature, which will alert 
users to the presence of 
product updates; and the ad- 
dition of Flash, RealPlayer, 
and QuickTime plug-ins 
to the browser download 
package. 

Preview or not, Firefox is 
a worthy competitor to IE 
and is certain to gain the ap- 
proval of anyone who wants 
to wriggle out from under 
the Microsoft monopoly. II 

by Jeff Dodd 



Smart Computing / August 2004 21 



Reviews 



File Utilities 

Put PDF To 
Work For You 

To understand the value 
of pdfFactory, you must 
first understand the signifi- 
cance of the PDF (Portable 
Document Format). Devel- 
oped by Adobe, PDF is a 
technology that enables 
content developers to pub- 
lish their documents in a 
universally accepted elec- 
tronic format without com- 
promising graphics, fonts, 
layout, and other design el- 
ements. Because of PDF, 
users on any platform and 
with no other software than 
a free copy of Adobe Read- 
er can access content — in- 
cluding rebate forms, user 
manuals, event entries, 
newsletters, and business 



reports — that virtually any- 
one could create. 

Or, at least, anyone who 
could afford to create it. 
Until recently, users had only 
one option for creating PDF 
files: Adobe Acrobat. But 
after many years of selling 
the software to graphics pro- 
fessionals and high-end hob- 
byists who could justify the 
program's $299 price tag, the 
company decided to share its 
proprietary technology with 
the masses. Several software 
development companies 
quickly took advantage of 
Adobe's benevolence to re- 
lease low-end PDF creation 
utilities. FinePrint's pdfFac- 
tory is arguably the best of 
these third-party programs. 

The program itself actu- 
ally exists as a printer driver 
that shows up whenever you 




pdfFactory 

access the Print command 
from within a Windows ap- 
plication. When the Print di- 
alog box appears on-screen, 
you simply select pdfFactory 
as the designated printer and 
click the Print button. The 
document won't print on 
your printer; instead, a 
second dialog box appears in 
which you can configure 
basic fonts and links settings, 
preview how the document 
will look as a PDF file, and 
save it as a PDF file. You also 
can print the file or email it 
as a PDF attachment. That's 
all there is to it. 



pdfFactory 



$49.95 

FinePrint Software 

http://www.fineprint.com 



pdfFactory is no Adobe 
Acrobat. You can't use the 
utility to edit PDF docu- 
ments or generate new con- 
tent. What it does (and does 
well) is convert content 
from one or more apps into 
a compact, searchable PDF 
file you can share with 
anyone who has Adobe 
Reader. Small businesses 
and self-employed individ- 
uals will benefit from the 
opportunity to create low- 
cost PDF files for Web and 
email distribution. II 

by Jeff Dodd 



Security 



Protect Your Identity With Your PC M ™, y^ 



First the bad news: Iden- 
tity theft is a growing 
problem in the United 
States. According to the 
Federal Trade Commission, 
more than 210,000 U.S. con- 
sumers were victimized by 
identity theft in 2003. That's 
nearly a third more than the 
number of complaints filed 
in 2002 and nearly seven 
times more than the number 
of identity theft complaints 
registered in 2000. 

Now for the good news: 
You can help avoid this 
crime by taking measures to 
protect yourself. One of 
those measures involves an 
investment in Broderbund's 
Identity Theft Protector soft- 
ware. The program is an all- 
in-one protection solution. It 



starts with an intuitive inter- 
view that walks you through 
the process of gathering your 
confidential information in- 
to a secure database. You'll 
need this information so that 
you can close your accounts 
in the event someone steals 
your purse or wallet. 

The next step in pro- 
tecting yourself is education. 
To that end, Identity Theft 
Protector boasts a catalog 
containing dozens of arti- 
cles that cover everything 
from common identity 
theft scams to main- 
taining your privacy while 
traveling. The catalog also 
includes a brief risk as- 
sessment test and a series 
of articles about identity 
theft from USA Today. 



Protector is de- 
signed to help you detect 
and recover from a possible 
or confirmed identity theft. 
The Webroot Spy Sweeper, 
for instance, scours your 
system in search of malig- 
nant spyware, adware, key 
loggers, and other privacy 
intruders. If a theft has al- 
ready occurred, you can use 
the Recovery Wizard to de- 
velop a checklist of concrete 




steps you should take to re- 
solve the matter. That may 
not seem like much of a 
benefit, but anyone who has 
lived through identity theft 
will appreciate just how 
helpful it is to have a ready 
resource for getting through 
the complex and confusing 
recovery process. 

You certainly don't need 
a computer program to get 
your accounts in order and 
prepare for the worst. But 
for less than $20, Identity 
Theft Protector is a cheap 
way to ensure that it gets 
done before you need it. II 

by Jeff Dodd 

Identity Theft Protector 



$19.99 

Broderbund 

http://www.broderbund.com 



22 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



1 x^ 

acu later Re 




eceotion 



The 802.11 g USB 2.0 adapter with twist-and-shout flexibility 




180 c 



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w 



GWU513 

Wireless-G tojd jpFlex Ad 

• Uses USB port, not cardbus or PCI slot 

• No configuration hassles 

• Flexes and pivots for optimal reception 



lOGEAR's ultra fast Wireless-G 
802. 11g USB 2.0 adapter can help 
you connect to a wireless network 
with "higher power." It bends and 
twists to ensure optimal reception 
so you can work at up to 54Mbps 
at home or anywhere a hotspot is 
available. 

Installation takes just moments. All 
IOGEAR Wireless-G products offer 
the latest security and are 
backward compatible with 802.11b. 

So "retire the wire" without 
sacrificing Internet speeds - pick 
up lOGEAR's line of Wireless-G 
products today! 




Up to 4 Computers 
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• Fast setup in just a few simple steps 

• Includes everything for effortless installation 

• Built-in firewall, supports WPAand WEP 

• Built-in print server shares your printer with all connected 
computers 




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Compiled by Joshua Gulick 




IMPULSE/ A ITEMS 



Cool Stuff For Less Than $20 



See it, like it, buy it. 
Impulse Items are 
products that 
quicken your pulse 
and capture your 
attention but won't 
make you dig too 
deep into your 
wallet. Check these 
pages each month 
for the latest 
interesting and 
inexpensive 
computing items 
we've run across. 




GlGANTA MOUSEPAD 

Whether you play action-packed FPS 
(first-person shooter) computer games, 
slow-paced but difficult strategy games, 
or games that fall somewhere in be- 
tween, you've probably rolled your 
mouse off the mousepad a time or two. 
Most mousepads can handle short 
mouse strokes, but as soon as you make 
Tiger Woods swing his golf club, you'll 
push the mouse beyond the edge of the 
mousepad. If you need a larger mouse- 
pad, take a look at BTP's (Blooming Tree 
Productions) extra-large Giganta series 
mousepads (http://www.gamerz 
stuff.com). Each mousepad is 9.5 inches 
high x 11.5 inches wide. If you have a 
traditional mouse, you can buy the 
Giganta V-3 for $12.95; if you have an 
optical mouse, you'll want to buy one 
of the special Giganta Optical pads, 
which are available for $14.95. 




Pod Shield 

There's no question that Apple's 
portable digital music players are sleek, 
good-looking devices; many PC owners 
tote their digital music collections in the 
popular iPod. But looks rarely last when it 
comes to electronic devices. Scratches can 
mar your i Pod's bright display, and finger- 
prints can muddle the device's mirror-like 
steel back. If you want to protect your 
iPod without stuffing it in a bulky, protec- 
tive case, put Trendy Geek's Pod Shield 
(http://www.trendygeek.com) onto your 
pocket player. The Pod Shield has two 
pieces: a clear, plastic pad that attaches to 
your i Pod's screen and a larger clear pad 
that wraps over the back of the iPod. The 
Pod Shield attaches to your iPod via static 
electricity instead of adhesive. Each pack- 
age has six pieces (three for the back and 
three for the front), which means you can 
protect your iPod for months. The Pod 
Shield package is available for $9.99. 



Something Wrong T-shirt 

If you have a family member or friend who spends more 
time in front of the computer than anywhere else, send her 
a hint with ComputerGear's "Something, Somewhere Went 
Terribly Wrong" T-shirt (http://www.computergear.com). 
ComputerGear offers the T-shirt in sizes M through XL for 
$19.95 and XXL for $21.95. If you're in a chilly climate, buy 
the sweatshirt version for $29.95. 



A$tl£#* 



24 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 




# EJ 






Anti Red Eye 1.0 

Digital cameras store more pictures 
and let you print photos from the com- 
fort of your own home instead of run- 
ning to the local 1-hour film developer. 
Unfortunately, even though technology 
has removed many of the film camera's 
most irritating characteristics, it still can't 
prevent the dreaded red-eye effect. If you 
use Adobe Photoshop, Jasc Paint Shop 
Pro, Macromedia Fireworks, or VicMan 
Software's VicMan's Photo Editor to edit 
your pictures, install VicMan Software's 
Anti Red Eye plug-in (http://www 
.vicman.net). Anti Red Eye lets you 
re-color eyes by creating a small rectangle 
over each red spot with your cursor. If 
you don't have any of the aforementioned 
photo-editing apps, you can buy Red Eye 
Remover 1.4, which also corrects the 
color of red eyes in photos. You can 
buy the plug-in or the standalone 
program for $19.95. 



Typing Quick & Easy 15.0 

If you have a child or grandchild, 
you already know that many schools 
teach children to type soon after 
they teach children to write. Give 
your child a head start by giving him 
Individual Software's Typing Quick 
& Easy (http://www.individual 
software.com). The typing tutorial 
software has standard typing lessons 
but also features a variety of typing 
games, including Erik The Viking, 
Flotsam Fighter II, and Xtreme Typing, 
that let him practice while having fun. 
Older users will enjoy the software's 
practice articles, which let users read 
while they type. The software tracks 
your progress and provides evalua- 
tions of strengths and weaknesses 
in the form of reports and graphs. 
Typing Quick & Easy has a price tag 
of $19.95. 



Fritz Grandmaster Challenge 

Rainy day? No problem. Grab your 
chair and challenge your computer with 
Viva Media's Fritz Grand-Master Chall- 
enge (http://www.vivamedia.com). By 
default, the game displays the board in 
2D mode, but you can easily switch the 
view to 3D mode, which has realistic 
chess pieces that cast shadows. If you 
are an experienced player, you can dive 
right into a game without reading any 
hints, but if you're new to chess, you'll 
probably want to consult the game's 
Hint feature before sending one of your 
pieces into harm's way. Fritz GrandMaster 
Challenge also has Friend Mode, which 
levels the playing field by automatically 
adjusting your computer opponent's skill 
level to match your own. If you choose 
a particularly bad move, the Coach will 
appear to warn you and let you take 
the move back. You can buy the Fritz 
GrandMaster Challenge for $9.99. 



Circuit Board Mousepad 

Most computer manufacturers use PCBs (printed circuit boards) to 
build the devices that create your computer's guts, but Cybercalifragilistic 
(http://www.cybercal.com) sees the green boards, metal, and silicon for 
what they really are: art. Cybercalifragilistic offers a variety of circuit board 
products, including the Circuit Board Mousepad, which has a green circuit 
board. Circuit boards aren't perfectly smooth, but Cybercalifragilistic 
makes each board washable and mouse-friendly by applying clear vinyl to 
both sides. A plastic base prevents the mousepad from slipping and pro- 
tects your desk. The Circuit Board Mousepad is available for $13.95. 




1 




Smart Computing / August 2004 25 




Windows XP Professional's 
Remote Desktop 



Allowing a Windows XP Professional computer to be 
"remotely controlled" is as easy as setting it to 
allow remote access and configuring at least one 
password-protected user account. 



Windows XP Professional's Remote Desktop 
Connection feature lets you control your 
WinXP Pro computer (the host) from another 
computer (the client) running Windows 95 or 
higher via a network or Internet connection. You 
can use a client computer to operate the applica- 
tions on your host computer, view email on your 
host computer, and print documents using 
printers connected to your host computer. 
Everything on your host computer appears on 
your client computer's screen as if you were sit- 
ting in front of the host, when in fact you might 
be floors or miles away. 

Why would you want to do such a thing? 
Well, if you have a WinXP Pro-based desktop 
PC as your primary computer and, say, a 
Windows 98 notebook as your mobile system, 
you can use Remote Desktop to receive, read, 

and send email on 
your WinXP machine 
from your notebook, 
without having to 
worry about synchro- 
nizing email pro- 
grams on each PC. 
You can access and 
work with files you 
forgot to copy from 
your WinXP Pro sys- 
tem to your Win98 
machine. You can use 
your Win98 notebook 
to run applications 
installed on your 
WinXP Pro machine 
that you can't even 
install on your Win98 
system. If you have a 
home network and 
are especially lazy 
(like the author), 
you might even use 
Remote Desktop to 
save yourself the 
trouble of running 
from one computer 
to the other. Remote 
Desktop can also be 





With Remote Desktop, you view and operate your host 
computer through a window on your client computer. 



of great value in a troubleshooting situation: A 
friend with WinXP Pro could access your PC 
from her home to help you solve a problem. 

Set Up The Host 

Again, in Remote Desktop Connection, the 
host has to be running WinXP Pro; Windows XP 
Home won't work. 

Your first step is to set the host to allow itself 
to be run. Log on as an Administrator. (If you 
own the host computer, this is likely the way 
you always log on; if your employer owns the 
host computer, it's best to have your IT admin- 
istrator set up Remote Desktop.) Click Start, 
right-click My Computer, and choose Proper- 
ties. In the Systems Properties dialog box, 
click the Remote tab; under Remote Desktop, 
check Allow Users To Connect Remotely To 
This Computer. 

If you haven't already set up a password 
for your computer, you'll see a message tel- 
ling you that accounts used for remote connec- 
tions must have passwords. Click OK to remove 
the message. (You'll take care of this in a 
moment.) 

Next, click the Select Remote Users button. 
You'll see a list of user accounts on your com- 
puter. (If it's a home computer, you'll most 
likely see a single Administrator account). If you 
saw the aforementioned password message, click 
the User Accounts link, which opens the User 
Accounts dialog box. Click the account you 
want to enable for remote access. (Ideally, this 
should be the account you use to log on to the 
computer.) In the next screen, click Create A 
Password. Enter the password, confirmation, 
and hint. Click OK. (Be sure to choose a pass- 
word you can remember.) Decide if you want to 
make your files and folders private. (In most 
cases, you won't want to do this, because you'll 
want access to them over the Remote Desktop 
Connection.) Jot down the account name and 
close the User Accounts dialog box. Note the 
name of the computer and click OK. 

Make sure to leave your host computer run- 
ning. If you want, you can restart it so that it 
opens to the logon screen. 



26 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Set Up The Client 

Again, to remotely operate your WinXP Pro 
host computer, your client computer must be 
running Win95 or higher. It must also have the 
Remote Desktop client installed. If your client is 
running WinXP Home or Professional, Remote 
Desktop is already installed; skip to the Connect 
& Control section below. 

Otherwise, insert the WinXP Pro CD in the 
client computer's CD drive. When the Welcome 
To Windows XP screen appears, click Set Up 
Remote Desktop Connection. Follow the instal- 
lation wizard's instructions. 

Connect & Control 

Now you're ready to connect and control 
your desktop computer over a network connec- 
tion. On your client computer, click Start and 
choose Programs (or All Programs in WinXP 
Home), Accessories, Communications, and 
Remote Desktop Connection. In the Computer 
field, type the name of the computer you want 
to control. 

Click Options. On the Display tab, choose 
the size at which your host Desktop will 
appear on your client screen. Typically, the best 
options are to choose a smaller size than your 
client screen or Full. You'll otherwise be forced 
to do some scrolling. Then click the Experience 
tab. Even if you have a LAN (local-area net- 
work), it's wise to consider choosing the 
Broadband connection speed; the LAN speed 
setting transmits your Desktop background, 
which can really slow down Remote Desktop 
screen performance. If you don't care a whit 
about your experience (and in this sort of a 
situation, it really doesn't matter much), 
choose the lowest setting, Modem (28.8Kbps 
[kilobits per second]). Fiddle with any other 
options you want to change (the defaults 
are fine). 

Next, click Connect. Type the username, 
password (for your host computer), and net- 
work domain (if necessary, as it would be to 
connect to a computer at work) and click OK. 
On your client screen, a Remote Desktop 
window will appear. If you set your Display 
size to Full, your host Desktop will fill your 
client display and you'll see a connection bar 
at the top of the screen. You can use this bar 
to resize or minimize the Remote Desktop 
window. (Click the pushpin icon button to 
hide the connection bar until you wave your 



mouse pointer near the top center of the 
screen.) 

Now you're ready to start using your 
Desktop, just as if you were sitting in front of it. 
You'll notice a few differences. For one thing, 
Remote Desktop doesn't support ClearType, so 
your fonts will look as jagged as they did in the 
old Win95 days. And if you try to play sound or 
video on your host, what you'll hear or see on 
the client will likely be pretty choppy. Aside 
from these few small differences, you're using 
your host computer without being anywhere 
near it. 

When your session is complete, in the 
Remote Desktop window, click Start, Log Off, 
and then Yes. This won't shut the host system 
down but will return it to the WinXP logon 
screen, where a password is required for users to 
get any further. 

For information on using Remote Desktop 
over the Internet, Smart Computing subscribers 
can read the "Remote Desktop Over The Web" 
sidebar at http://www.smartcomputing.com 
/scaug04/remotedesktop. 

Save Your Connection 

Once you try Remote Desktop, using it could 
become habitual. If it does, you won't want 
to have to snake your way through the 
Accessories menu every time you start it up. To 
avoid doing so, save your connection as a 
Desktop icon. Open the Remote Desktop 
Connection via the Start menu (one last time), 
make sure your host is displayed in the 
Computer box, and click Options. If necessary, 
click the General tab. If you want Remote 
Desktop to automatically enter your password, 
type your password in the Password box and 
check Save My Password. (You may not want to 
do this, as it might give someone who steals 
your computer [especially if it's a notebook] 
access to your Desktop.) Then click Save As. 
In the Save In box, select Desktop, name 
the connection, and then click Save. From 
now on, you can quickly start your Remote 
Desktop connection by simply double- 
clicking this icon on your client computer's 
Desktop. II 

By Mark Scapicchio 




Smart Computing / August 2004 27 




Solve Compatibility 
Problems In Windows 2000 



nEKmmmamsa 



General Croup Membership | 

What level of access do you want to grant this user? 

<~ Standard user (Power Users Group) 

Users can modify the computm arid install programs, but 
cannot read files that belong to other users, 

C Restricted user (Users Group) 

Users can operate the computer and save documents, 
but cannot install programs or make potentially damaging 
changes to the system files and settings. 



t? Other: | Administrators 



In February 2000, Microsoft launched Windows 
2000, the then-latest OS (operating system) from 
the Redmond giant to target the business market. 
Win2000 was an instant success. It was easier to in- 
stall, deploy, and maintain than Windows NT, and 
it continued the WinNT's tradition of strong relia- 
bility. While Windows XP Professional is now 
Microsoft's flagship business OS, many businesses 
and home users still use Win2000. It's is stable, ro- 
bust, and secure, so it's appealing to Windows users 
who value rock- solid reliability. 

But this reliability doesn't mean Win2000 is 
trouble-free. A common problem you may en- 
counter when you upgrade to Win2000 is a lack of 
compatibility with the legacy applications that ran 
just fine under Windows 9x/NT. Strangely enough, 
Win2000's security features are usually the culprit 
when compatibility problems cause problems with 
a legacy app. Users accustomed to Win9x's 
virtually nonexistent security may find 
Win2000's strong security features a bit dif- 
ficult to get used to, especially if they cause 
problems with your valuable legacy apps. 

Read on to learn more about the pos- 
sible application compatibility pitfalls you 
might encounter when you move to 
Win2000 and how to deal with them 
when they occur. 



Tjxj 



~z 



L 



Apply 



In the Properties window for this 
PCs Administrator username, you 
can see that members of the 
Administrator group have 
complete and unrestricted access 
to the computer and domain. 



Different Rights For Different Users 



When apps misbehave in Win2000, it's 
often because the developers didn't develop 
the software with Win2000's strong secu- 
rity features in mind. One of the corner- 
stones of Win2000's security model is the 
concept of User groups. With User groups, 
system administrators can set up users ac- 
cording to classes that enjoy different types of privi- 
leges. (By privileges, we mean the ability to perform 
tasks within Windows.) This structure, combined 
with the ability to set usage policies, gives adminis- 
trators extensive control over what users can and 
cannot do to their computers. 

Before we plunge into a discussion about appli- 
cation compatibility and Win2000 User groups, it 
is important to make a distinction between two 



classes of applications: certified and legacy. 
Certified applications meet the requirements of 
the Windows 2000 Application Specification and 
have passed a series of compatibility tests to dem- 
onstrate compliance with the specification. 
Legacy applications, on the other hand, are not 
certified to work with Win2000. This doesn't 
mean you can't install a legacy application on a 
Win2000 PC. As you'll soon discover, the ability 
to install a legacy app depends on the class of user 
trying to install it. 

Now, let's take a quick look at the various types 
of users available in Win2000. 

Administrators. As the name implies, Admin- 
istrators are all-powerful and can do just about 
anything within the Win2000 environment, from 
installing the OS to repairing an installation to 
modifying key system settings in the Registry. 
Administrator privileges are usually reserved for 
IT personnel charged with maintaining an in- 
stalled base of Win2000 users. If you use Win2000 
at home, you will want to be sure you are set up as 
an administrator so you can perform required 
system maintenance. Administrators can install 
and run legacy and certified apps. 

Power Users. Power Users are next on the hier- 
archy. Even though they are not quite as powerful 
as Administrators, Power Users still enjoy consid- 
erable privileges in Win2000. For example, Power 
Users can create new local users and groups, 
modify existing users and groups, or change ac- 
cess privileges to various locations within 
Win2000 and the Registry. Power Users can run 
legacy applications and certified applications. 

Users. Users are the most restricted category 
of User groups within Win2000. This is also the 
most common category found in a typical busi- 
ness setting: The vast majority of people in a 
business who use Win2000 will be categorized as 
Users. Users can't install legacy apps. If an appli- 
cation attempts to make system-wide changes 
while it runs, those logged in as Users will not be 
able to run the application. Also, Users are un- 
able to perform many of the administrative tasks 
that Power Users and Administrators are able to. 
Depending on the general group policies system 
administrators set up, Users may be further 



28 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



restricted in terms of the tasks they can do within 
Win2000. 

So, why have User groups? The reason is simple: 
By establishing this hierarchy, Win2000 makes the 
job of administering a large installed base of 
Windows users easier. Restricting the privileges for 
the majority of users prevents technically unsophis- 
ticated users from unwittingly damaging their sys- 
tems by installing faulty software or tweaking 
important settings they don't quite understand. 

When Applications Misbehave 

When applications misbehave in Win2000, one 
of three symptoms usually occurs: You can't in- 
stall the application at all, the installation process 
fails without successfully installing the applica- 
tion, or the application installs successfully but 
runs erratically (or not at all). 

Problem: You cannot install an application. If 
your Win2000 privileges are under the Users group, 
you will not be able to install a legacy application at 
all. Win2000 accommodates multiple Users by 
saving user settings, such as Desktop settings, 
Internet Explorer favorites, and the My Documents 
folder, under a hierarchy of folders located at 
C:\DOCUMENTS AND SETTINGS\USERNAME. 
So, if your username is FSMITH, there will be a 
folder called FSMITH in the Documents And Set- 
tings folder. A series of folders under FSMITH in 
turn contain all of your user settings. When you log 
on to the computer, the OS loads all of your user- 
specific settings from these folders. 

In Win2000, members of the Users group can 
only work with their own folders under this hier- 
archy; for example, a user cannot open another 
user's folder, nor can he manipulate system files 
common to all users. Legacy applications that are 
not coded to work with Win2000 often attempt to 
write needed files, such as DLL (dynamic-link 
library) files, to system-wide folders or folders out- 
side of your user-specific folder hierarchy. 
Applications under Win9x could write needed 
system files anywhere in Windows and even replace 
Windows system files with their own versions. 
Win2000 is much more protective of these impor- 
tant system files, so it does not let members of the 
Users group overwrite these files at all. Hence, a 
member of the Users group attempting to install a 
legacy application will not be able to do it at all. 

Your options here are rather limited. If you 
cannot install an application and your Win2000 
system is part of a network of Users in a business 
setting, your best bet is to consult with your system 



administrator and verify whether she can install the 
application for you. Unlike Users, Power Users and 
Administrators can install legacy applications. If 
you use Win2000 at home, make sure you log on as 
an Administrator. Once you do, you should be able 
to install the legacy application without incident. 

Another solution is to check with the applica- 
tion's developer and find out if it has a Win2000- 
certified update. When Win2000 entered the 
market, many developers upgraded their software 
to make it play nice with the new OS. So it may be 
worthwhile to see if the developer of your legacy 
application has updated it for Win2000. In many 
cases, you will find out that this is indeed the case. 

Problem: An application installation fails 
without completing the installation. This glitch 
can occur for a number of reasons. For example, 
if an application's installation routine attempts to 
write to a system-wide folder and you only have 
Users privileges, Win2000 will abort the install. 
For example, when we attempted to install an ap- 
plication with our Users privileges, the installa- 
tion proceeded normally until the very end when 
the program generated the following message: 

"The InstallShield Engine (iKernel.exe) could 
not be installed. 

The folder 'C:\Program 
Files\Common FilesUnstall 
Shield' could not be created. 
Make sure that you have the 
appropriate privileges to 
create this folder (0x5)." 

This message is actually 
quite clear: The application's 
install routine attempted to 
make changes in a system - 
wide directory, and Win- 
2000 prohibits someone 
with Users privileges from 
making this change. This is 
how Win2000 protects itself 
from potentially trouble- 
some system-wide changes. One user can't make 
changes to the system that will affect other users. 
An Administrator or a Power User would have been 
able to install this with no problems. 

Win2000 generates a similar message if an app at- 
tempts to make changes to the Registry beyond the 
area of the Registry reserved for a specific user. 
Those with Users privileges can only modify 
Registry keys located under the HKEY_CUR- 
RENT_USER branch. If an app attempts to write or 
modify a Registry key under any other branch, for 
example, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, Win2000 




1 


What level of access do you want to grant this user? 


• Standard user (Power Users Group) 
Users can modify the computer and instal programs, 
but cannot read files that belong to other users. 

C Restricted user (Users Group) 
Users can operate the computer and save documents, 
but cannot install programs or make potenbaty 
damaging changes to the system files and settings. 


r Other: [ 








<8ack | Finish Cancel | 







The Add New User dialog box lets you set up new 
users in your Win2000 system with the general set 
of privileges you deem appropriate. 



Smart Computing / August 2004 29 








*J 





Cannot edit LogPixels 


Error writing the value's new 


contents. 




OK 







When we attempted to modify a Registry key under 
the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE branch when logged in 
as a member of the Users group, we were unable to 
make the change. 



will restrict this access and the application will re- 
port an error. 

Download a copy of the app certified to work 
with Win2000 or get an Administrator or Power 
User to install it for you. If you're a home user, log 
on as an Administrator and attempt to install it. 

Problem: When you attempt to run an applica- 
tion, you receive an error message. When 
launched, some legacy applications query Win- 
dows for its version number before continuing to 
run normally. The application runs normally only if 
the OS returns certain version numbers. Because 
legacy applications were written before Win2000, 
the version number Win2000 returns does not 
match the allowed versions listed in the application 
code, causing it to return an error and halt program 
execution. You usually get a message reporting that 
the program needs a particular version of Windows 
to run and that version is not present. 

Win2000 has a handy tool to help you get 
around this problem: the Application Compatibility 
tool (Apcompat.exe). This tool lets you fool an app 
into thinking it's running under a previous 
Windows OS, not under Win2000. 

To launch the Application Compatibility tool, 
click Start, Programs, Windows 2000 Support 
Tools, and Application 
Compatibility to launch the 
tool (you may have to in- 
stall it from your Win2000 
CD). Enter the path to the 
troublesome program in the 
Start The Following Pro- 
gram field or use the Browse 
button to search for it. Click 
one of the OS radio buttons 
to select the OS you want to 
emulate. Click OK. When you launch the applica- 
tion, the Application Compatibility tool will pass 
the proper version number to the application 
based on the OS you selected using the tool. If the 
version number is the only issue preventing the 
application from running, you are home free. 

Problem: The program does not run properly 
after selecting an OS in Application Compatibility. 
After going through the steps described above, you 
may find your program still doesn't run properly, 
if at all. The Application Compatibility tool gives 
you some other options to coax your program into 
cooperating with Win2000. 

The Application Compatibility tool has four 
checkboxes below the OS list for tweaking addi- 
tional application compatibility settings. The first 
checkbox lets you disable the Heap Manager in 



Win2000 for the memory that is allocated for the 
program. Some legacy applications' memory 
management does not work well with Win2000's 
enhanced memory management features, so dis- 
abling the Heap Manager corrects the problem. 

Another pitfall occurs when apps don't correct 
for the fact that the Temp folder in Win2000 is on a 
different path than on previous Windows versions. 
In Win9x, the path for the Temp folder is usually 
C:\WINDOWS\TEMP. In Win2000, the Temp 
folder path is typically C:\DOCUMENTS AND 
SETTINGS\USERNAME\LOCAL SETTINGS\ 
TEMP. If the app's code doesn't correct for this dif- 
ference, an error occurs. By checking this box, the 
Application Compatibility tool creates a folder that 
corresponds to the path the app's code checks for. 

If an application does not properly determine the 
free hard drive space in Win2000, it reports an error 
and stops running because it determines there isn't 
enough drive space to continue operating. To make 
sure your application correctly determines available 
drive space, click the Correct Disk Space Detection 
For 2-GB+ Drives checkbox to select this option. 

Apps sometimes misreport available drive space 
because older application code uses a Windows API 
(application program interface) function that, due 
to the data format the function uses to report the 
number, obtains an incorrect value for the available 
drive space in hard drives with more than 2GB of 
free space. Win2000 certified applications don't 
generate this error because they use the correct 
Windows API function. 

Click Make The Above Checkbox Settings Per- 
manent to write your application compatibility set- 
tings to the Registry, making them permanent and 
keeping you from running the Application 
Compatibility tool every time you run the app. 

Taking Security Seriously 

Win2000 is a corporate- strength OS that takes 
security seriously. In a corporate setting, strong se- 
curity and system management features take prece- 
dence over accommodating end users' desire to 
install whatever apps they choose. This makes life 
simpler for Administrators, who avoid the prospect 
of repairing systems, and also for end users, who 
enjoy a stable and reliable computing environment. 
If you're a home user, you'll enjoy knowing that 
friends who might use your computer from time to 
time will not cause inadvertent damage to your 
system configuration. II 

by Sixto Ortiz Jr. 



30 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 





Use Windows 98's 
Address Bar To Its Potential 



The Address bar in Windows 98 is a useful tool 
that provides many convenient features. We'll 
explore the Address bar, what it can and can't do, 
and how to overcome one of its limitations. 

Particularly for folks who browse the Web 
heavily, the Address bar can be a significant time- 
saver. Ostensibly designed to make browsing easier 
by letting you access a Web page without opening 
Internet Explorer, the Address bar can also navi- 
gate files and folders or even run applications or 
DOS commands directly from your hard drive. 

One thing the Address bar can't do is run com- 
mands that are internal to DOS, such as DIR and 
COPY. You can remedy this situation rather 
simply, and we'll show you how to do it. 



launch IE. Enter a URL (uniform resource locator) 
in the Address bar and press ENTER; IE will launch 
and take you to the site you specified. If IE is open, 
the page currently loaded will update with the new 
site you entered. If multiple IE windows are open, 
the active or most recently used one will update 
with the new page. 

The Address bar also provides IE's timesaving 
features. While typing an address in the Taskbar, 
Windows will compare the characters you type 
against previously entered text, in the hopes of 
finding a match to an address you've already en- 
tered. The Address bar also provides IE's pull- 
down menu to access a list of sites you've visited 
so you can access them with a single click. 



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To expose the Address bar, right-click 
the Windows Taskbar and select Toolbar 
and then Address. 



Bar Basics 

You'll find the Address bar by right- clicking the 
Win98 Taskbar and selecting Toolbars and 
Address. Once you've turned the Address bar on, 
you'll see the word "Address" in your Taskbar, 
followed by a white box. Drag the Address bar's 
left border over to extend its size and give you 
more room to type. 

You'll probably notice doing 
this (or activating the Address bar 
on low-resolution monitors) can 
make the Taskbar cramped be- 
cause it encroaches upon the lim- 
ited space available to show open 
applications. After activating the 
Address bar, you'll likely want to 
enlarge your Taskbar. 

Position your pointer at the top 
edge of your Taskbar until the 
pointer becomes an arrow. Hold 
the left mouse button and drag the 
Taskbar upward until it reaches the 
size you want. The Address bar takes up the entire 
bottom row, giving you plenty of room to type. 

You can detach the Address bar from the 
Taskbar and position it anywhere on your Desktop. 
Just click the word "Address" and drag it to a new 
location. Once the Address bar is on the Desktop, 
move or resize it just like any other window. 

Again, the main benefit of the Address bar is that 
it lets you access a Web page without having to 



Nose Around Your PC 

Besides letting you traverse the Internet, the 
Address bar also lets you explore the files and 
folders on your PC. Typing a path in the Address 
bar will open a window that takes you to the con- 
tents of the particular drive or folder. Once you're 
there, use the window's toolbar to navigate your 
PC's folder structure. This can be a lot quicker 
than going several layers into the Start menu to 
launch Windows Explorer and find a file or folder. 

The Address bar essentially duplicates the Run 
dialog box (go to Start and Run), which makes it 
useful for launching apps on your hard drive. 
Quickly run an application by typing the program 
name into the Address bar. Type calc or notepad 
to run Calculator or Notepad, respectively. 

In addition to running applications that are in- 
cluded with Windows, the Address bar can also 
serve as a launching point for most other applica- 
tions you have installed on your PC. As long as an 
app is located in the default path (the standard 
places Windows looks, such as C:\WINDOWS or 
C:\PROGRAM FILES), you can launch it directly 
from the Address bar. Type aim to launch AOL 
Instant Messenger (assuming, of course, that it's 
installed on your PC.) In some cases, you might 
need to enter a complete path to the application. 

Use the Address bar to open a Control Panel 
application without going through the Start menu 
to access it. Typing control panel\display in the 
Address bar will open the Display dialog box. 



Smart Computing / August 2004 31 



DOS & The Address Bar 

As multifaceted as the Address bar can be, 
things get a little more complicated when it comes 
to running DOS commands. 

There are two different types of DOS com- 
mands: external and internal. Some examples of 
external DOS commands are deltree, which 
deletes files and folders, and attrib, which can 
change the file system attributes of a file or folder. 
External DOS commands are those that corre- 
spond to an actual program in Win98's Com- 
mand folder. So if you were to look there, you 
would find files called deltree and attrib. 

Then there are internal DOS commands. 
Examples are DIR, which lists the contents of a 
folder, and COPY, which copies a file from one 
place to another. Internal DOS commands are 
those that don't correspond to an application in 
the Command folder. Type dir at any command 
prompt to get a directory listing, but there's no 
program on your hard drive called dir. 

The Address bar can handle external DOS 
commands just like any other app, but it can't run 
internal DOS commands, at least not in a 
straightforward way. The good news is that you 
can overcome this limitation with a batch file. 

A batch file is a file that can automatically run a 
batch of commands or programs. Once invoked, it 
can perform its tasks without further user interac- 
tion. Batch files can be a simple series of com- 
mands, and more complex batch files can include 
variables that change the file's behavior based on 
the situation or input from the user. 

The most noteworthy example of a batch file is 
the file in the root folder of almost any Win9x, 
autoexec.bat. This batch file can load drivers and 
programs before Windows starts. 

Use a batch file to get around the Address bar's 
internal DOS command limitation by running 
that command within the batch file. The batch file 
is then run from the Address bar, which will exe- 
cute it like any other program. 

To create such a batch file, open Notepad and 
type the following: 

@echo off 



if"%l"= 



' exit 



if exist c:\windows\temp\temp.bat del 
c:\windows\temp\temp.bat 

echo %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9 > 
c:\windows\temp\temp.bat 

call c:\windows\temp\temp.bat 

if exist c:\windows\temp\temp.bat del 
c:\windows\temp\temp.bat 



Before saving the file, verify that your PC's 
Temp folder is C:\WINDOWS\TEMP. If it's dif- 
ferent, change the references in the file accordingly. 

After you're finished typing and verified the loca- 
tion of your Temp folder, go to File, select Save As, 
name the file +.bat, and save it into your Command 
folder (C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND). We're going 
to name it with the plus sign (+) because the plus 
sign key is large and conveniently located on the 
right side of your keyboard's numeric keypad 
(which doesn't require a SHIFT), but you can name 
the file with any other legal DOS character (s). 

The batch file you just created is designed to 
read the command you enter after the plus sign 
and copy it into a new batch file called temp .bat in 
your Temp directory. It then executes the contents 
of temp .bat. Afterward, the file is deleted in order 
to prevent an error the next time you run it. Just 
in case, though, it will also check for and delete the 
temp.bat file the next time you run +.bat. 

When you want to run an internal DOS com- 
mand from the Address bar, preface the command 
with the plus sign, for example, + copy c:\auto 
exec.bat c:\windows\temp, or + dir c:\windows. 

The command you run with the +.bat file will 
often complete almost immediately. The default 
behavior of the DOS window, though, is to remain 
open after the program is finished running, so 
you'll need to close it each time it's run. This sce- 
nario is preferred whenever you're running a com- 
mand such as DIR that produces output that 
you'll need to read. 

On the other hand, having to 
close the window each time you 
use the batch file can be inconve- 
nient. To avoid the need to do this, 
configure the DOS window to 
close itself when the program is 
finished. Be advised that you may 
only briefly see the application 
window, and in some cases, you 
may not even see it at all. 

To do so, go to the Command 
folder, right- click the +.bat icon, 
click Properties, select the Program 
tab, and put a check mark in the 
box labeled Close On Exit. 

As neither scenario is ideal for all DOS com- 
mands, the best approach is to create an identical 
batch file (with a different name), perform the same 
steps on that file, and use it for those commands 
you need don't need to read the results of. II 

by Joseph Moran 





To run an internal DOS command from the 
Address bar, simply preface the command 
with a plus sign (+). 



32 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



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How Did Thev Do That? 



Internet Telephones 



Compiled by Marty Sems 
Graphics & Design by Andria Schultz 



How VoIP Will Change The Way You Talk 



Long-distance calls that cost little 
or nothing? Sign us up! Cheap 
calls aren't the whole story behind 
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) tele- 
phony, but that's what gets the hype. 

IP (Internet Protocol) telephony, aka 
VoIP, is the new wave in communica- 
tions. We're not talking about software, 
such as Skype (http://www.skype.com), 
you use to place calls with your PC. 
We're talking about picking up a phone, 
dialing a number, and talking to some- 
one on their phone — over the Internet. 

Plain old telephone service, often 
called POTS, is expensive over long dis- 
tances and difficult to upgrade. VoIP 
phones address these shortcomings, but 
can't match POTS's clarity or reliability. 
VoIP business phones compress 
words, break them down into IP data 
packets, and send them through an IP- 
enabled PBX (Private Branch Exchange). 
Alternatively, digital phone adapters 
convert a regular home phone's analog 
voice signal into digital data. In either 
case, the data flows from the PBX or dig- 
ital phone adapter to the VoIP phone 



service provider's servers over the Web. 
The call arrives on the recipient's phone, 
regardless of type due to cooperation be- 
tween phone service providers. 

Each VoIP phone has an IP address 
like every PC on the Web, so it isn't tied 
to a physical location. You can take your 
phone and/or digital phone adapter with 
you for cheap phone calls. Service pro- 
viders must keep your street address on 
file in case you need to dial 911. 

IP phones for businesses offer more 
benefits, especially if they have screens 
like Pingtel's xpressa IP phone ($439; 
http://www.pingtel.com). Instead of 
waiting as a voice lists options, navigate 
menus via icons on your phone's screen. 
Or, Pingtel says, imagine telling Outlook 
to initiate a conference call to three col- 
leagues in your Contacts folder and send 
them a PowerPoint presentation. 

Most Internet phones on the market 
are for businesses with IP-compatible 
PBXes. A few services are aimed at home 
users, such as VoiceGlo (http://www 
.theglobe.com). Vonage (http://www 
.vonage.com) offers a plan with 500 



minutes of local and U.S./Canada calling 
for $14.99. The company supplies a free 
Cisco ATA- 186 or Motorola VT1000 
digital phone adapter to connect your 
phone to your DSL (Digital Subscriber 
Line) or cable modem. (Ironically, a dial- 
up connection is too slow to send a VoIP 
phone call. Vonage recommends at least 
a 90Kbps [kilobits per second] broad- 
band connection.) Vonage requires you 
to dial 1 and the area code before each 
call, but you can keep your existing 
phone number in some areas. Calls to 
other Vonage users are free. 

The state of the Internet affects your 
VoIP experience. Congestion and DoS 
(denial of service) attacks can lead to 
outages in which your phone may not 
work at all. Worms and malware can 
slow the Web, but there's little risk any 
viruses could infect your IP phone or 
adapter (manufacturers use Java, Digest 
Authentication, and other mechanisms 
to keep conversations private). Think of 
VoIP as one more avenue of commu- 
nication, not a replacement for your 
traditional phone. 




Peggy telecommutes to her job 
at Company A. She phones her 
boss, Geri, using her regular tele- 
phone. Everything seems like she's 
using a traditional POTS phone, 
right down to the dial tone. 



Analog Voice 



2 Peggy's digital phone adapter 
turns her analog voice signal 
into packets of IP data. These bits 
and bytes travel through her DSL or 
cable modem, over the Internet, and 
through Vonage's servers. 




IP Packets 



1001001010 



01 001 001 01 01 00 



o 
o 



o 
o 



Digital Phone 
Adapter 



s^& 



Cable or DSL 
Modem 



34 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 




& 



en 





Company A 



Company A's phones also use 
J VoIP, so its IP-enabled PBX 
routes Peggy's digital call to Geri's 
phone over the network. Geri doesn't 
have all the information Peggy needs, 
so she sets up a conference call with 
Ted at Company B. 



)10010101010110101010100100101010101001010011 



4 Ted, a bugle 
salesman at 
Company B, has a regular 
POTS phone. Company 
A's VoIP service provider 
sends the call to 
Company B's phone 
company. At some point 
in this journey, the call is 
converted back to an 
analog voice signal to go 
through Company B's 
PBX, and then to Ted's 
analog phone. 




Company B 



IP Telephony Vendors 




Business vendors rule most 
of the VoIP phone market 
so far. However, VoiceGlo, 
Vonage, and a few others offer 
consumer services. 

Altigen 

AltiGen Alti-IP600 IP 

Telephone 
http://www.altigen.com 



Avaya 

4600 Series IP Telephones 
http://www.avaya.com 

Cisco 

7900 Series IP Phones 
http://www.cisco.com 

Ericsson 

Dialog 4425 IP Vision, Dialog 
4422 IP Office 



http://www.ericsson.com 

Nortel 

i2004, i2002 Internet 
Telephones 

http://www.nortelnetworks 
.com 

Pingtel 

xpressa IP phones 
http://www.pingtel.com 



VoiceGlo 

IP phone service 
http://www.theglobe.com 

Vonage 

IP phone service 
http://www.vonage.com 



Smart Computing / August 2004 35 



General Computing 



All Together Now 

Are Multifunction Devices Worth Their Weight? 




If you've ever stayed up late watch- 
ing infomercials on cable TV, you've 
probably seen advertisements for gad- 
gets that seem to do virtually every- 
thing: "It slices, it dices, it even bends 
metal!" Those products might leave 
you wondering if one device can really 
perform so many different tasks well, 
or if it is best to have a separate tool 
for each job. 

We haven't tried the do-it-all 
kitchen gadgets, fishing tools, and 
cleaning supplies that are hawked 
on those late-night commercials, but 
we have tested do-it-all computer 
peripherals. 

A multifunction device, also known 
as an MFD or all-in-one, is a periph- 
eral that works as a printer, scanner, 
photocopier, and depending on the 
model, fax machine. A printer is usu- 
ally considered a necessity for every 
computer user. For about the same 
price as an ordinary printer, you can 



get an MFD that does far more than 
just put words and pictures on paper. 

All-in-ones have a variety of advan- 
tages and disadvantages when com- 
pared with using separate peripherals. 
Is an MFD right for you? You don't 
have to sit through an infomercial or 
call a friendly operator to find out. 
Just read on. 

Benefits 

The two biggest benefits of all-in- 
one devices are their small size and 
low cost relative to buying separate 
peripherals. In a cramped workspace, 
a separate printer, scanner, copier, and 
fax machine might consume all of 
your desk space (and electrical out- 
lets). An MFD, usually about the size 
of a printer alone, uses a fraction of 
the desktop real estate. 

With price tags from $99 to $499, an 
MFD could cost significantly less than 



standalone peripherals, although it 
won't necessarily be less expensive to 
run. (More on this below.) MFDs are 
inexpensive because many of the parts 
that perform one function are also 
used to perform another. For instance, 
a single scanning mechanism can scan 
photos and make copies. The printing 
mechanism can print those copies in 
addition to printing documents from 
your PC. Like standard printers, MFDs 
are also inexpensive because the man- 
ufacturers can make up the difference 
in the cost of ink or toner. 

For many people, the biggest ben- 
efit to an MFD is access to functions 
that they couldn't justify purchasing 
alone. If you only need to photocopy 
or fax a couple of pages each week, it 
doesn't make financial sense to buy 
photocopy and fax machines. An all- 
in-one device can add those functions 




The Brother MFC-8420 offers a flatbed scanning 
surface and automatic document feeder. 




Resembling a traditional fax machine, the 
MFC-8420 supports faxing. 



36 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



General Computing 




For $130, the Multipass 360 is a basic color 
inkjet printer, copier, and scanner. 




The ImageClass MF5550 packs fax, automatic 
document feeder, printing, copying, and 
scanning into a do-it-all machine. 




The Epson CX6400 can print proof sheets and 
full-sized pictures from your digital camera 
without help from the PC. 



to your computer for virtually the 
same cost as a new printer, elimi- 
nating time-consuming trips to your 
local copy shop. 

Problems 

An all-in-one is multitalented, but 
it may not be able to perform every 
function as well as the standalone de- 
vices it replaces. Most of the models 
we tested are just fine for printing and 
faxing, but scans often don't equal the 
quality and speed of a decent stand- 
alone scanner. Likewise, although 
an all-in-one can be convenient to 
use as a copier, it can be slower and 
more expensive to run than a dedi- 
cated photocopier. 

If your MFD breaks, your home of- 
fice could be crippled rather than merely 
inconvenienced. Not only would you 
not have a printer, but you're also out a 
scanner, fax machine, and so on. 

As a rule, inkjet printers are more 
expensive to run than laser printers. 
The toner for a typical black-and- 
white laser printer costs a penny or 
two per page, while an inkjet' s ink can 
run from 4 cents per page for basic 
black text to more than a dollar per 
page for an 8- x 10-inch color picture. 
Likewise, MFDs that use inkjet print- 
ing cost more per page than ones that 
use laser technology. By printing in- 
coming faxes and copying pages, 
you're likely to print more pages with 



an MFD device than with a standard 
printer, further increasing the cost. 

Unless you need to print and photo- 
copy in color, it might be wise to look 
for an MFD that uses laser printing 
rather than inkjet. They cost a little 
more initially but can save you money 
in the long run. Laser printers are 
much faster than inkjet printers, too. 

By their nature, MFDs are more 
complex than one-trick-pony printers. 
Most MFDs are covered with buttons 
and include special software to sup- 
port copying, scanning, and faxing 
functions. If you need to keep the 
computer workstation simple (in a 
computer lab or as part of a tech- 
nophobe's PC setup, for instance), an 
MFD might not be the way to go. 

Using An All-ln-One 

Setting up an all-in-one is very 
similar to hooking up a traditional 
printer. The machine will connect to 
your PC via a USB (Universal Serial 
Bus) port. A few models, particularly 
those from Brother and Samsung, also 
include a parallel port, which is useful 
for connecting to older PCs that don't 
have a USB port. 

Some midrange and high- end mod- 
els include networking, allowing the 
machine to connect to, and be con- 
trolled by, more than one computer. If 
your all-in-one doesn't have built-in 
networking, you can use your OS' 



(operating system's) printer sharing 
feature to use it as a shared printer. But 
that won't turn the machine into a fully 
shared device. Other features, such as 
scanning and faxing, may only be pos- 
sible using the computer that's directly 
connected to the device. 

As with any printer, you'll have 
to install a software driver so the 
computer can communicate with the 
device. All MFDs include Windows 
drivers. If you use Mac OS or Linux, 
make sure any MFD you're consid- 
ering includes drivers for your OS. 
You may have to visit the manufactur- 
er's Web site to get the full details 
about compatibility with your favorite 
OS. In some instances, basic printing 
is supported, but scanning and faxing 
from the PC is not. 

Choosing An All-ln-One 

Before you settle on an all-in-one 
model, there are some decisions to 
make, starting with inkjet vs. laser 
output. Most of the MFDs on the 
market are inkjet-based, so if you go 
with laser, there are fewer choices to 
contend with. 

The next question is whether you 
need a model that can send and re- 
ceive faxes. Units with faxing capa- 
bility connect to your phone line, 
allowing them to send and receive 
faxes like a traditional fax machine. 
Many models include the ability to 



Smart Computing / August 2004 37 



General Computing 




The Epson Stylus Photo RX500 and RX600 are 
the only all-in-ones we looked at that can scan 
photo negatives and slides, allowing you to 
digitally preserve your Kodak moments. 



send and receive color faxes. This can 
be a nifty feature if you're connecting 
to another color-capable fax machine. 
However, color is not widely sup- 
ported in traditional fax machines. 

In addition, many models let you 
send faxes directly from the computer, 
for instance, letting you fax a word pro- 
cessing document without printing it 
out first. Faxing capability typically adds 
$50 to $100 to the price of an all-in-one. 

The last major choice is between 
flatbed or sheetfed models, which de- 
termines how scanning, copying, and 
faxing work. A flatbed model resembles 
a standard copy machine, in which you 
can place an object, such as an open 
book, on a glass surface for scanning, 
copying, or faxing. On the other hand, 
a sheetfed model only accepts loose- 
leaf pages but can take a stack of them 
and feed them through automatically, a 
real time- saver when you need to copy 
or fax several pages. Which is better for 
you depends entirely on how you will 
use the machine. A few models offer 
the best of both worlds. The HP Office- 
jet 6110 and Brother MFC-8420, for 
instance, include both a flatbed and 
automatic document feeder. 

If you use a digital camera, you 
might want an MFD model that in- 
cludes slots for digital camera media. 
With this feature, you can insert your 
CompactFlash, SmartMedia, or other 
digital media into the MFD to print 
your photos without turning on the 



computer. (Be sure the all-in-one that 
you choose accepts the type of media 
that your camera uses.) 

When you're shopping for an MFD, 
you'll see familiar names again and 
again: The vast majority of consumer 
all-in-ones are manufactured by 
Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Lexmark, 
and Samsung. Here's a look at some of 
the models that are currently available 
from each company. 

Brother 

Brother's (http://www.brother.com) 
MFD lineup includes a selection of 
laser- and inkjet-based units. For 
laser-based units, there's the sheetfed 
MFC-4800 ($249.99) and the MFC- 
8420 ($449.99), which includes both a 
flatbed and an automatic document 




The Lexmark X61 70 prints and copies at a 
breakneck 19 pages per minute. 

feeder. The 8420 is also expandable — 
you can add a second paper tray and a 
network card to connect it to more 
than one computer. Both include the 
ability to send and receive faxes. 

Brother has many choices for color 
inkjet units, including the MFC- 
3220c, MFC-4420c, and MFC-5200c. 
(The "c" in these model names stands 
for color.) All three models include 
the ability to fax. The 4420c ($199.99) 
has a flatbed-scanning surface and 
includes card readers for printing 
directly from your digital camera's 
CompactFlash, SmartMedia, or other 
memory cards. The sheetfed 3220c 
($129.99) is among the least expensive 
units that include faxing. The MFC- 
5200c ($249.99) includes a flatbed and 



automated document feeder, plus 
memory card readers. Many Brother 
models, including the 5200c, support 
both USB and parallel ports, a feature 
missing in most other brands. 

Canon 

Six flatbed, inkjet-based MFDs are 
available from Canon (http://www.usa 
.canon.com). On the low end of the 
spectrum is the MultiPass MP360 
($129.99), a basic machine for printing, 
copying, and flatbed scanning. For 
$199.99, the MultiPass MP390 adds 
faxing and digital camera memory card 
readers. The middle of the line includes 
the MultiPass MP730 ($299.99), which 
adds faxing and includes a flatbed sur- 
face and automatic document feeder. 

Canon's two top-of-the-line all-in- 
ones are laser-based: the ImageClass 
MF5530 ($399) and MF5550 ($499). 
The 5530 includes fast copying, print- 
ing, and scanning with an automatic 
document feeder. The 5550 also offers 
fax capabilities. 

Epson 

Epson (http://www.epson.com) 
brings four MFDs to the table, all 
inkjet-based. The Stylus CX5400 
($149) and Stylus CX6400 ($199) are 
close cousins, with the ability to print 
photos and copies right to the edge of 
the paper. The CX6400 adds faxing 
capabilities and card slots for digital 
camera media. A useful feature lets 
the unit print a proof sheet of the im- 
ages on your digital camera card: fill in 
the bubbles to select the pictures you 
like best, scan the proof sheet, and the 
unit will print full-sized versions of 




The HP PSC 1210 will print, copy, and scan for 
less than $100. 



38 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



General Computing 



Sub-$100 MFDs: 
Are They Worthwhile? 

In your local computer store and 
online, the prices of all-in-one 
devices might amaze you. The typical 
price range is from $200 to $400, but 
you can find some models for $99. 
Factoring in mail-in rebates, you may 
be able to score one for even less. 

If you're strapped for cash, some 
of these bargain-basement MFDs 
(multifunction devices) might be 
worth your attention, but in the 
long run, they will cost you as much 
as, or perhaps more than, devices 
with a higher initial cost. HP and 
Lexmark currently offer all-in-ones 
for under $100. 

The HP PSC 1210 ($99.99) is a 
good option for buyers on a budget. 
The model is particularly compact 
and designed to slide right up against 
a wall, making it a good choice for 
a crowded workspace. It isn't the 
fastest printer, but it produces great- 
looking images and documents. Like 
many inkjets, the ink isn't cheap. 
The retail price for HP-branded ink 
is $20 for black and $35 for color, so 
replacing both carts twice will cost 
more than the printer itself. HP says 
the black cartridge will print about 
450 pages. 

Lexmark has a line of low-cost 
models, including the PrinTrio Photo 
P3150 ($99.99), X2250 ($99.99), and 
X1 185 ($79.99). These low-end 
Lexmarks are slow, loud, and expen- 
sive to run — not, in our experience, 
worth the trouble. The P3150 and 
X1 185 can't make copies when the 
PC is turned off, which can be an 
exasperating limitation when you 
just need a quick copy. 

None of these inexpensive 
machines includes the ability to 
send and receive faxes. Also, none 
of them comes bundled with a USB 
(Universal Serial Bus) cable, which 
means adding $5 to $10 to the 
bottom line. I 



your favorites, all without turning on 
the computer. 

If you need to scan 35mm film 
negatives or slides, the Stylus Photo 
RX500 ($249) and RX600 ($349) pro- 
vide a unique feature: built-in trans- 
parency adapters in addition to digital 
camera media slots. The RX600 adds a 
2.5-inch color LCD (liquid-crystal dis- 
play) for viewing and editing photos 
without help from the PC. Neither of 
these models include faxing functions. 

HP 

HP (http://www.hp.com) has a wide 
selection of MFDs ranging from a $99 
bare-bones unit to a $500 behemoth 
that can power a busy office. Churning 
out 22 pages per minute, the OfficeJet 
7130 ($499.99) is among the fastest 
inkjet models available. It includes 
a flatbed scanner plus automatic 
document feeder, memory slots for 
reading your digital camera media, 
and fax capabilities. Its paper-handling 




With its Ethernet port, HP's PSC 2510 can send 
scans to and faxes from any computer in your 
home or small office. 



prowess goes beyond the norm with 
automatic collating and two-sided 
printing and copying. 

The $399.99 PSC 2510 is a notable 
all-in-one for two reasons. First, it's 
the least expensive model with built-in 
networking: Just plug it into your 
Ethernet hub and up to five com- 
puters can print, scan, fax, and control 
its copy functions. Secondly, the unit's 
2.5-inch LCD makes controlling its 
various functions easy. 



If you prefer a laser-based machine, 
check out the LaserJet 3015 ($299.99), 
which also includes fax functions. 

Lexmark 

Lexmark (http://www.lexmark.com) 
offers a bevy of low- cost inkjet all-in- 
ones, with price tags from $99 to $200. 
The top-of-the line is the X6170 All- 
in-One Office Center ($199.99), which 
includes a flatbed and automatic docu- 
ment feeder, faxing, and speedy printer 
output. The least expensive models in 
the lineup aren't so impressive, how- 
ever. (See the "Sub-$100 MFDs: Are 
They Worthwhile?" sidebar.) 

Samsung 

Samsung (http://www.samsungusa 
.com), a relative newcomer to MFD 
products, offers three MFDs that all use 
laser technology. The SF-565P ($299) 
packs in a laser printer, fax machine, 
sheetfed scanner, copier, and telephone 
handset. If you prefer a flatbed-scan- 
ning surface but don't need fax func- 
tions, there's the SCX-4016 ($299). For 
$100 more, the SCX-4216F provides 
the whole enchilada: fax, flatbed, and 
automatic document feeder. 

All three models include USB and 
parallel ports. A word of warning, 
though: Toner cartridges for Samsung 
printers can be harder to find than 
those from other manufacturers. 

Worth Their Weight? 

The bottom line is whether MFDs 
are worth the money. As long as you 
choose the right model for your needs, 
an all-in-one can be a smart addition 
to a home or office. They're conve- 
nient, save space, and cost less than in- 
dividual components. Keep in mind 
that for copying, they can be expensive 
to use relative to a standard photo- 
copier, so you may still want to run 
down to Kinko's when you need to 
duplicate more than a few sheets. II 

by Kevin Savetz 



Smart Computing / August 2004 39 



M r 



Modem 



Desktop 



"Summertime 



And The Downloads Are Easy . . ." 



Another lazy, hazy, crazy August here at San Simoden, 
my estate in the Hamptons. Day after sun-kissed day 
with nothing to do but attend champagne-soaked 
brunches and beach parties with my good friends Frankie and 
Annette, interrupted only by the need to take medication to 
control my delusions. I've got a few minutes before the nurse 
arrives, so let's get to this month's column. 

The Inspirational Web 

If you're having a bad day or just feeling down in the 
dumps, how about an inspirational minimovie to pick up 
your spirits? At Inspirational Flash Movies (http:// 
www.inspiringthots.net), you'll find topics ranging from 
religious themes to generic gratitude, education, chil 
dren, careers, dealing with adversity, and even 
coping with questionable advice from well-in- 
tentioned friends or cloyingly cheerful com- 
puter-magazine columnists. 

From IE To CP, PDQ 

To navigate from Internet Explorer to your 
Control Panel or anywhere else, there's no 
need to go through the grueling process of mini- 
mizing your browser and clicking the Desktop or other icon. 

Instead, in the Address field, enter the words control 
panel\ (including the slash) followed by the feature in the 
Control Panel you'd like to access. For example, type con- 
trol panel\display and press ENTER to go to your Display 
settings. This also works if you type windows explorer, my 
computer, recycle bin, word, and oe (for Outlook Express). 

Tidy Up Forwarding 

Looking for a quick way to get rid of those annoying 
>>>> marks on forwarded email? I use a free program 
called EmailStripper (http://www.papercut.biz/emailStripper 
.htm). Just click one of its three buttons: Paste, Strip It, and 
Copy. 

This Clockll Doodle Do 

It's one clever piece of programming that causes this clock 
to display as it does. IE users, navigate to http://tinyurl.com 
/aowO, and then move the mouse pointer around your screen 
and you'll see what I mean. Astound, amaze, and possibly 
annoy your friends. You can thank me later. 

Down By The Old Mill Stream 

At the Magic (Diploma) Mill (http://www.boxfreecon 
cepts.com/magicmill), you can choose from a wide variety of 




the finest fake colleges and universities. You can even create 
your own university if you can't get into a phony one. Need a 
trumped-up transcript to back up your bogus degree? Not a 
problem. My Ph.D. from the Verbiage Institute, the Long- 
Blather School of Arts and Letters proudly hangs on my faux 
grasscloth- covered walls. Print your diploma on some nice 
stationery, and you'll be on the road to success — or prison, 
faster than you can say, "Are there two Ps in diploma?" 

"On The Road Again . . ." 

A congratulatory tip of the Mr. Modem fedora to 
long-time reader Joline S., a wonderful lady who 
has taken mobile computing to the next level: 
"Dear Mr. Modem, Vm starting my third 
year traveling the U.S. in my fifth wheel and 
truck, with trusty Dell laptop, Win XP, and a 
Datastorm two-way data satellite on the roof. 
It works perfectly out on the road (even in 
Mexico) with broadband speeds and DISH network 
TV attached. Vm a female, age 73, traveling alone and 
IOVE IT! It's a great life being on the road, yet never 
being out of touch thanks to the miracle of this technology. 
From somewhere in New Mexico, loline. " 

I'm soooooooo jealous! I don't think any computer 
columnist has ever uttered this phrase to a reader, but 
"Happy modeming, and drive safely!" 

Beware Of The Boomer Bug 

There's a particularly insidious virus sweeping the world 
today that cannot be detected or deleted by any antivirus 
software. This dastardly digital demon primarily targets 
those of us who are older than 50, so keep an eye out for any 
of these symptoms: If you send the same email twice or send 
a blank email; if you send email to the wrong person or if 
you send it back to the person who sent it to you. If you 
mention an attachment and then forget to send it; if you 
click Send before you're finished writing a message or press 
Print instead of Save and then shout at the computer for be- 
ginning to print, you may have been exposed to the C-Nile 
virus. If so, welcome to the club. II 

by Mr. Modem 




40 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 







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www.tvtome.com 




TV To 

Telly Trivia To 



Your Online Guide To TV Shows 
In The Past Present & Future 



It has happened to almost all of us at 
least once. You get that niggling, mad- 
dening feeling as you're watching tele- 
vision and ask yourself, "Where have I 
seen that actor before?" The face is fa- 
miliar, but you just can't place it, and 
you don't know where to look for an- 
swers. Well, those days are over. You'll 
no longer wonder about "The Wonder 
Years," be a novice concerning "The 
Apprentice," or not know the skinny 
on "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance," 
thanks to the TV reference guide and 
Web site called TV Tome. 

The TV Tome site is to television 
what IMDb (Internet Movie Database) 
is to movies; it's a comprehensive online 
resource for current and past episodic 
TV shows (no talk shows or soap operas 
yet) along with a preview of future 
shows. TV Tome carries in-depth guides 
on specific programs, presents pre- 
views on series development, and pro- 
vides a meeting place for trivia buffs, 



TV-aholics, and the simply curious who 
want to exchange information or learn 
obscure facts. To see what it's all about, 
tune in to http://www.tvtome.com on 
your Internet dial. 

The Prime-Time Lineup 

TV Tome is well-organized and easy 
to navigate, which is obvious right from 
the start on the home page. The left side 
of the page presents its own style of 
navigation "bar," which includes four 
miniature TV sets displaying text links; 
the categories fall broadly into indi- 
vidual guides, overviews and reviews, 
fantasy television, and information 
about the site. The center of the page 
features recent episodes and pertinent 
facts about the site, and the right side 
of the page carries quick links to the 
evening lineup and user profiles. 

The heart of TV Tome is its col- 
lection of more than 4,500 guides to 



current and classic shows — about 
1,700 of them are fairly complete, with 
another 2,800 in development — so 
we'll begin our tour of the site there. 
From the home page, click the All 
Shows link in the top left TV icon, and 
scroll down the list until you've located 
a show you want to know more about. 
If you're lucky, the show name will be 
in bold print, indicating a more com- 
plete guide. Regardless, TV Tome pre- 
sents all shows in the same format. 

Here at Smart Computing, some of 
us happen to be "Law & Order" fans, 
so we chose to visit the "Law & Order" 
guide to show you a typical guide's 
content and layout. Click the show's 
link, and you'll see a page that mirrors 
the TV Tome home page, with TV 
icons on the left for navigation (Gen- 
eral Info, Indepth, Current Episodes, 
and Resources) and the General Info 
main content in the middle. Naturally, 
the guide begins with an introduction, 
which contains an overview of the se- 
ries and interesting facts. Question: 
Who is Steven Zirnkilton? Answer: 
He's the voice behind Law & Order's 
opening narration. 

Scroll down a bit, and you'll see a 
brief section highlighting basic facts 
about the show, such as when it first 
aired (October 1999), its status (series 
renewed through 2005-2006 season), 
its running time (60 minutes), the 
country (United States), and when and 
where it currently appears (Wednes- 
days, 10 p.m. Eastern Time on NBC). 
Following this section is a list of the 
show's stars and crew; click a name to 
view detailed information. Plus, you'll 
find show news and notes as well as 
links to longer articles. 

Although all of this information is in- 
teresting, it's the Indepth section we find 
fascinating. This is where you'll find an- 
swers to those burning questions, such 
as who played that minor character in 
that single episode. Not only does this 
section list every single episode number, 
airdate, and title, but each episode title 
carries detailed information about its 
synopsis, guest stars, notes, and more. 
And occasionally, you'll find memorable 



42 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Site Guide • Plugged In 



quotes, such as the dialogue in this sea- 
son's finale between the retiring, "three- 
times-single" detective Lenny Briscoe 
and his female lieutenant: 

Briscoe: "So what's it been for you 
and me ... 1 1 years?" 

Van Buren: "Something like that." 

Briscoe: "It's the longest I was ever 
with any woman." 

Van Buren: "Now that's pitiful." 

There's an area of the Indepth sec- 
tion that's so popular it has its own 
listing on the TV Tome home page. 
The Reviews cover entire series, indi- 
vidual episodes, and the miscellaneous 
story, such as the WB's upcoming fall 
schedule. Click the Episode Reviews 
link within a series guide or click the 
Reviews link at the top of the home 
page (and other pages) to view the en- 
tire index of reviews. 

See one that looks interesting? We 
thought Key Battles To Look At Next 
Season was, and its content rewarded 
us with a head-to-head comparison of 
shows in the toughest time slots this 
fall. It laid out viewing conflicts for de- 
voted TV watchers (such as "CSI" or 
"The Apprentice") and made some 
interesting predictions. 

In addition, you can jump to a par- 
ticular show's recent episodes, typically 
the last two or three, by bypassing the 



Individual guides provide 
the lowdown on such shows 
as "Highlander/' 




Find videos, 
posters., books., 
collectibles and 
more in 

to related 
web sites about 
this show :: 



episode list and going 
directly to the third TV 
icon on the left side of 
the guide page. And, if 
that isn't enough for 
you, visit the resources 
area for links to exter- 
nal Web sites, as well as 
books, posters, collect- 
ibles, and more at TV- 
related merchant sites. 

Appear In The Credits 

While viewing the 
episode guides, you 
may have noticed that 
the top of each section 
features two small symbols, a plus sign 
(+) and a pair of scissors. These are just 
two of the ways you can contribute to 
the site. Clicking the plus sign lets you 
input show information, and clicking 
the scissors sign lets you edit informa- 
tion, provided you have the proper per- 
mission. To do either, however, you'll 
first need to register on the site. 

Click a link on the right side of the 
home page to display a registration 



Highlander 




Welcome to the Highlander guide at TV Tome. 

"He is Duncan MacLeod. . . the Highlander. Born in 1592 in 
the highlands of Scotland, and he is still alive; he is 
Immortal. 

For 400 years, he's been a warrior. . . a lover. . . a 
wanderer. . . constantly facing other Immortals in combat 
to the death. The winner takes his enemy's head- and 
with it, his power. 

"I am a Watcher, part of a secret society of men and 
women who observe and record, but never interfere. We 
know the truth about Immortals— in the end, there can be 
only one. May it be Duncan MacLeod. . . the Highlander." 




Tips For Using TV Tome 



Find the hidden FAQs. The Webmaster is working on adding FAQs (fre- 
quently asked questions) to the site, but until then, you can find plenty of 
answers to FAQs in the general forums. Click the Forums link on the home 
page and click the About TV Tome forum. Here you'll learn, for example, 
that the co-star listing refers to a minor character, and that's why the cast 
guide doesn't include co-stars. 

Don't get locked out. Can't add to a forum discussion? When a forum thread 
strays too far off-topic, the Webmaster closes it down, which you'll see repre- 
sented by a tiny lock icon. By design, you can't add to a locked thread. 

Mind your A's and The's. The search engine works well, but we should warn of 
some minor points. When you enter a show's name with "The" at the begin- 
ning and the engine doesn't find a match, it'll remove the "The" and try to find 
a match that way. But this rule only applies at the beginning of a show name, 
so "Magic: Gathering" will not match "Magic: The Gathering." Similar rules 
apply to the use of "A," "An," "8c," and "And." 



Related Series: 

Highlander: The Raven 
Highlander: The Animated Series 




Mklr: 4J 






®>| 


Also known as: 


Highlander: The Series 




First Aired 


October 1992 




Last Aired 


May 1998 




Status 


Canceled/Ended 




Running Time 


60 min 




Country 


United States 




Network 


Syndicated 




| ®> 



Philip Akin - Charlie DeSalvo (1993-1994) 

Jim Byrnes - Joe Dawson (1993-1998) 

Elizabeth Gracen -Amanda Darieux (1994-1998) 

Lisa Howard - Anne Lindsey (1994-1995) 

Stan Kirsch - Richie Ryan 

Adrian Paul - Duncan MacLeod 

Alexandra Vandernoot - Tessa (1992-1993) 

Peter Wingfield - Methos 

Amanda Wyss - Randi ?:"?'?r.1 Season 1) 



form. This form asks you to create a 
username and password and enter an 
email address. You also have the option 
of filling out a user profile so others 
who visit the site can read about you. 
Once you've registered, return to the 
site guide and click the plus sign. Now 
you can submit photographs of your fa- 
vorite "CSI" actor, provide summaries 
and links about "The Dead Zone," or 
add news and notes on "The Simpsons" 
for review by a TV Tome editor. 

Each show has a lead editor, who 
has permission to edit all sections of a 
show guide and oversees the process of 
accepting and editing user contribu- 
tions. If you like the sound of "Your 
Name, Lead Editor," head to the home 
page and click the About TV Tome 
link. Then, click the Become An Editor 
link and follow the instructions. You 
also can sign on to be an editor for 
a particular person, which makes you 
responsible for the information about 
an actor or actress, or you can choose 
to be a co -editor if the show you want 
to edit already has a lead editor. 
Editors can click the scissors signs to 
update show profiles. 

In addition, you can contribute to 
the site by becoming a critic or re- 
viewer. Although some of the reviews 



Smart Computing / August 2004 43 



Site Guide • Plugged In 



we mentioned earlier are written by 
outside sources, some are created by TV 
Tome site visitors. These volunteers 
write featured reviews of each episode 
of a given series or provide commentary 
on a show as a whole. TV Tome also is 
in the process of adding columnists and 
interviewers, who will write pieces on 
TV- related topics or interview players 
within the industry. 

Even if you don't want the respon- 
sibility of being an editor or reviewer, 
you can still contribute to the site via 
the TV Tome forums. The Webmaster 
has created general forums for dis- 
cussing the site as well as specific 
forums for each show. To participate 
in the former (after registering, of 
course), click the Forums link on 
the home page and choose any of the 
five forums: About TV Tome, Current 
TV Shows, Classic TV Shows, The TV 
Industry, and Members Lounge. 

Keep in mind, though, that these 
are general forums only. For in- 
stance, under Current TV Shows, 
you'll find discussions on the top 10 
least favorite shows of all time. 
(Based on the postings, many site 
visitors think "The Pitts" was aptly 
named.) If you want to discuss spe- 
cific shows, you won't find these par- 
ticular forums via the home page. 
Instead, visit a specific show's guide 
page and click the Forum link in the 
Indepth section. 

Specials, Previews & Games 

You'll find plenty of information 
about current and past shows in the 
guides, but don't let that fool you into 
thinking this site doesn't look into the 
future. TV Tome also offers insights 
on new shows, including analysis on 
why some shows failed or will fail and 
why others will continue to run. 

Start with Fall Schedule Predictions 
located on the home page and choose a 
network link, such as CBS, to read 
about which shows are up in the rat- 
ings ("CSI") and which shows are 
down ("Yes, Dear"). The comments are 
subjective — not every reader will agree 



that CBS' primetime Tuesday is "one of 
the most successful nights on TV and 
shouldn't be fooled with" — and that 
adds to the fun. Then, move on to the 
2003/2004 Roundup to learn which 
shows have been canceled and why, 
according to the site insiders. Some 
of the comments ("This horrid show 
should have never seen the light of day. 
The public was inflicted with only 6 
episodes.") may even make you wish 
you caught now-cancelled shows 
such as "The Mullets." 

Be sure to check out the Shows In 
Development link from the home page, 
too. TV Tome lists about 150 shows 
here, with as much information as its 
editors could dig up. You'll learn about 
Sylvester Stallone's boxing show, the 
plot of "We Are Family," and the latest 
project by Jessica Simpson. 

Ready for a little action of your 
own? Then play Fantasy TeeVee, a free 
game based on TV characters. Click its 
link on the TV Tome home page to 
head to Fantasy TeeVee's site, where 
you become an executive producer of 
your own network. Draft a cast of 
your favorite characters and create a 
lineup so you can match your lineup 
against another network executive, be 
it a friend or a stranger. If you outper- 
form your opponent, you become the 
winning producer. 

Finally, we'd like to point out the 
miscellaneous features grouped under 
the fourth and final navigation section 
of the home page. About TV Tome and 
Advertise On TV Tome provide you 
with a look at what goes on behind the 
scenes, including demographic data and 
the Webmaster's vision of the site's fu- 
ture. If you notice an error on the site, 
feel free to use the feedback form. You 
also can click other links — TV Related 
Merchants, TV News, Other TV Sites, 
and TV People — to visit TV resources 
not hosted by TV Tome. 

Get Hooked On TV Tome 

TV Tome is a site that you can spend 
hours browsing or researching, and 
how you use it — for entertainment or 



education — is up to you. Sound 
familiar? Many of us watch television 
in the same way. II 

by Heidi V.Anderson 




You might guess that John 
Nestoriak, the creator and 
Webmaster of TV Tome, is a TV 
junkie, or a TV executive, or even 
a former child actor. You'd be 
wrong. Although it was program- 
ming that got Nestoriak excited 
about founding TV Tome, it wasn't 
TV programming. In fact, he doesn't 
even have a favorite series, although 
he does admit to being a fan of 
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer." 

"I'm a computer programmer, and 
I wanted to work with Java servlets," 
Nestoriak says. "TV Tome is based on 
sites I had seen and liked earlier- 
sites that are automated and data- 
base-backed." 

Nestoriak began working on the 
site in 1999, and he launched it in 
2000. About a year later, he teamed 
with some of the developers of 
epguides.com, who agreed to allow 
TV Tome to import their guides. 
Today, the site numbers thousands 
of visitors, most of whom enter TV 
Tome not through the home page 
but instead via search engines or 
bookmarked pages. About 70% of 
them are from the United States, 
15% are from the United Kingdom, 
and a smattering are from countries 
that don't consider English as their 
primary language, such as Japan. 

Nestoriak intended for others to 
read "TV Tome" as two words, with 
"tome" referring to a large scholarly 
work, but some visitors assume it 
stands for "TV To Me," a logical inter- 
pretation, given that detailed show 
guides bring each series close to the 
visitor. Call it what you will; we choose 
to call it one of the most useful TV 
resources on the Internet. I 



44 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Speedy Surfing 
WrthRSS 

Get The Web Content You Need When You Need It 



It's a paradox that as the Internet has 
grown to include more information 
than ever before, using it effectively 
has become more challenging. Sure, 
search tools such as Google help you 
find information about a myriad of 
topics, but the average user is drown- 
ing in a sea of Web sites scattered 
through his browser's bookmark col- 
lection. If you visit dozens of Web 
sites on a daily basis, you can easily 
spend more time getting to the sites 
than reading their content. Fortun- 
ately, there's a revolution brewing on 
the Web, and its name is RSS (RDF 
Site Summary; RDF is short for 
Resource Description Framework). 

RSS is an attempt to organize and 
expedite the delivery of Web content 
to you. Although RSS began in 1999, it 
didn't really start to take off until this 
year. And in contrast to the "push" 
technology epitomized by PointCast, 
which also promised the moon, RSS is 
a resource-friendly technology that 
doesn't try to choke your computer 
with a deluge of data. 

How It Works 

In a nutshell, RSS works by having 
a client program (frequently called an 
aggregator) on your computer ask a 
Web site for an RSS feed. This feed, 
often published in an XML (Extensible 
Markup Language) file, usually lists the 
site's headlines along with summaries of 
the articles. A Web site that wants to 
publish a feed simply needs to create 
this type of file and post it on its site. 
That way, when a new article appears 
on the site, the site's feed automatically 
updates to reflect the change. 



To access the feed, you need an RSS 
client that can retrieve this type of file 
and read its content. There are stand- 
alone clients that run on your desktop 
computer, or you can use a Web-based 
client. Most RSS clients let you con- 
figure the rate at which they check the 
sites you subscribe to for new content. 

After you "subscribe" to a feed, most 
clients display each feed's headlines, 
summaries, and links to articles on the 
originating Web page. You can either 
view an article through the client's in- 
terface or click the article's link to view 
it in your preferred browser's window. 

What's Being Served 

Who's publishing RSS feeds? Ac- 
curate estimates of the total number 
of syndicated sites are hard to 
find, but Syndic8.com (http:// 
www.syndic8.com), a clearing- 
house for RSS sites, is adding about 
12,000 new sites per month, with a 
current list of more than 100,000. 

Feeds don't always reflect the entire 
contents of a site. For example, The 
Washington Post's site (http://www 
.washingtonpost.com) features 13 feeds 
ranging from World News to the 2004 
Election. Other sites may only list the 
main articles posted. Feeds also are 
handy for nontraditional news, such 
as recall information from govern- 
ment agencies. And if you're an 
iTunes junkie who likes to keep 
track of Apple's latest music re- 
leases, there's an RSS feed for you, 
too. Or if you're an avid follower of 
this year's election, subscribe to John 
Kerry's RSS feed and stay current on the 
race. Finally, if you just can't miss a 



single day of Dilbert, you can catch each 
day's comic strip by using an RSS feed. 

Find Your Feed 

Now that you've decided that this 
newfangled RSS thing might be what 
you've been hoping for since you first 
discovered the Web, it's time to find 
the feeds you need. Most sites that are 
veterans of publishing RSS feeds make 
it easy to subscribe by putting a small 
orange-colored icon on their Web 
pages. Typically labeled "XML" or 
"RSS," these icons are links to XML files 
that contain RSS data. 

After you find an RSS icon, right- 
click it, copy the link onto your Clip- 
board, open your RSS client, click 
Subscribe, and paste the link into the 
URL (uniform resource locator; a 
Web address) field. That's it; you're 
now a subscriber to the site's feed. 
Some sites require registration, which 
usually only involves demographic 
data, and the majority of these sites 
offer RSS feeds at no charge. 




Smart Computing / August 2004 45 



But not all sites make becoming I 
a subscriber this easy. Some bury 
the links deep within their sites or 
don't advertise RSS feeds. This is 
where savvy RSS clients have 
stepped up to make subscribing 
easier. All these clients need is the 
URL of the target site, and they'll 
scan the entire site for a feed. 

If you want help from a few 
friendly sites, visit Syndic8.com or 
NewsIsFree (http://www.news 
isfree.com). Using these sites, you 
can search for RSS feeds you 
probably never imagined were 
available. Most clients also come 
prepopulated with feeds. 

Installed Or Web-Based? 

Although client aggregators are all the 
rage (see our "RSS Clients" sidebar for 
examples), there's competition brewing 






■■ c : ***' 




'idiCJ MMtnn: Hrx HWis JU Dim 




NewsGator plugs into Microsoft Outlook for a one-stop 
Web experience that's convenient for users. 

for your RSS attention. Portal sites 
such as Yahoo! (http://www. yahoo 
.com), as well as Syndic8.com and 
NewsIsFree, offer Web-based RSS tools. 
Using these tools is as simple as cus- 
tomizing your preferences to reflect the 
feeds you'd like to subscribe to. 



In addition to portals, there are 
a host of sites, such as Fastbuzz 
(http://www.fastbuzz.com), which 
specialize in free, Web -based RSS 
aggregation. With a Web-based 
aggregator, there's no software to 
download and install, and you can 
use it on any computing platform. 

Your Personal Internet 

Part of the attraction of RSS 
is that it's a natural evolution 
of the Web that doesn't require 
users to learn esoteric com- 

mands or arcane terminology. 

With the advent of RSS, you can opti- 
mize your online time, so download 
an RSS client and find out what this 
brave new world is all about. II 

by Chris Jackson 



RSS Clients 

Choosing an RSS (RDF Site 
Summary) client that has 
the features and performance 
you need can be a challenge. 
To make it easier, we assem- 
bled a selection of available 
clients for PCs, Macs, Pocket 
PCs, and Palm OS devices. 



FeedDemon. If you want a 
standalone client, you'll find 
that FeedDemon from Brad- 
bury Software (http://www 
.bradsoft.com) is one of the 
best RSS clients for Windows. 
FeedDemon features auto- 
discovery, so you can use it to 
scan sites for RSS feeds. Feed- 
Demon is $29.95 and has a 
free 20-day trial version. 

NewsDesk. Created by 
David Peckham of Wildgrape, 
NewsDesk (http://www.wild 
grape.net) has an element 
that makes it the ideal Win- 
dows client: NewsMenu, 



which lets you view your 
headlines from an icon in 
your System Tray. Simply 
right-click the icon, and you'll 
see a list of the latest head- 
lines from your favorite sites. 
To use News-Desk, you'll need 
to have Microsoft's .NET 
Framework 1.1 installed. Best 
of all, NewsDesk is free. 

NewsGator. NewsGator 
from NewsGator Technologies 
( h 1 1 p:// w w w.n e wsgator.co m ) 
is a robust client that works 
with Microsoft Outlook. Like 
FeedDemon, NewsGator also 
features auto-discovery. It 
costs $29, but you can down- 
load a free 14-day trial version. 

NewzCrawler. Combining 
support for RSS and Usenet 
newsgroups, NewzCrawler 
from ADC Software (http:// 
www.newzcrawler.com) pre- 
sents news from multiple 
sources in one consistent in- 
terface. If you're comfortable 



with the look of Outlook 
Express, you'll feel right at 
home with NewzCrawler. You 
can download a free trial ver- 
sion, but once it expires after 
14 days, you'll have to pay 
$24.95 to continue using it. 
SharpReader. For a free 
app, SharpReader from Luke 
Hutteman (http://www.sharp 
reader.com) has one of the 
cleanest interfaces of any RSS 
client we evaluated. The per- 
formance wasn't as zippy 
as others, but this should 
improve over time. 



Hand/RSS. Hand/RSS from 
Stand Alone (http://www 
.standalone.com) is a Palm 
OS-compatible RSS client that 
can retrieve your favorite 
headlines when it has access 
to an Internet connection. 
Hand/RSS is available for 
$14.95 and has a free 30-day 



trial version. The client re- 
quires Palm OS 3.0 or newer. 
PocketRSS. If your PDA of 
choice is a Pocket PC, head 
over to AtomicDB.com 
(http://www.atomicdb.com) 
and download PocketRSS. 
You can try a trial version of 
this RSS client for 15 days and 
then pay $5 to register it. It re- 
quires Pocket PC 2002/2003. 



NetNewsWire. If your 
computer is a Mac, you 
won't find a better RSS client 
than Ranchero Software's 
NetNewsWire (http://www 
.ranchero.com). NetNewsWire 
has an elegant interface that 
will make you wonder how 
you survived without RSS 
and this sublime client. 
NetNewsWire retails for 
$39.95; a fully functioning 
30-day demo version also 
is available. I 



46 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Beware Of Spyware, 
Adware & Sneakware 

Learn How To Combat & Eliminate These Annoyances 



In the good ol' days, "I Spy" was ei- 
ther a child's game or a delightful, 
tongue-in-cheek TV series starring Bill 
Cosby and Robert Culp. Today, the 
term "spy" takes on more ominous 
overtones as all computer owners with 
Internet access — especially those with 
broadband connections — are subject 
to the cruel consequences of spyware, 
sneakware, and adware. 

You're Not Alone 

Let's first distinguish among these 
three terms. Spyware is software in- 
stalled on your computer without your 
knowledge or explicit permission and 
serves some nefarious purpose. In gen- 
eral, spyware gathers confidential infor- 
mation from your computer and 
automatically transmits it back to the 
individual or organization that planted 
it on your computer. 

An example of spyware is a keystroke 
logger, which is a program that runs in 
the background on your computer and 
records every keystroke you make. 
In other words, a keystroke logger 
is the electronic equivalent of 
somebody looking over your 
shoulder as you type. Armed 
with this information, a 
cracker or criminal organ- 
ization can steal your 
Social Security number, 
credit card numbers, bank 
account numbers, and 
anything else you type and 
enter into your computer, 
regardless of whether this 
information is part of a doc- 
ument on your hard drive or 
in an online form. There are 



some arguably legitimate uses for key- 
stroke loggers, such as a parent moni- 
toring a child's Internet activity, but the 
illegitimate uses pose a serious identity- 
theft threat. 

Although crackers use spyware to 
steal confidential information, in many 
cases it's incorrect to blame crackers for 
installing spyware on your computer. If 
you have a spyware problem and want 
to know who to blame, you'll probably 
find the culprit by looking in the 
mirror. That's because you may have 
unwittingly installed spyware on your 
computer by downloading and in- 
stalling freeware that serves as a Trojan 
horse for spyware. 

If your browser's security settings are 
not configured properly, the simple act 
of visiting a particular Web site also can 
automatically install spyware on your 
computer. This type of infiltration is 
known as a drive-by download. 




Adware, on the other hand, is soft- 
ware that gathers information about 
your Web-surfing habits in order to 
target you with pop-up advertisements 
for products and services that might be 
of interest to you. Unlike spyware, ad- 
ware is installed with the user's knowl- 
edge and permission, usually in 
exchange for software that's free but 
supported by advertisers. An example 
of adware-supported software is 
Sharman Networks' Kazaa, the popular 
peer-to-peer, file-swapping application. 
Although adware is generally more 
benign than spyware, it can still be quite 
intrusive. In fact, some anti-adware 
zealots have modified Kazaa in order to 
develop an adware-free version that 
they can download and install. The 
irony here is that many people believe 
Sharman Networks is fully aware that 
people use Kazaa to download copy- 
righted material, but when anti-adware 
zealots decided to develop an adware- 
free version of Kazaa, they violated 
Sharman Networks' own copyrights. 
But the ultimate backlash against 
Sharman Networks is that 
Kazaa has experienced a de- 
cline in users, not just be- 
cause of legal, competing 
music services, but be- 
cause of reports about 
the malicious code con- 
tained in the free files 
Kazaa collects. A recent 
analysis by TruSecure, 
a security and risk man- 
agement firm, estimates 
that 45% of the free 
files collected via Kazaa 
are viruses, Trojan horses, 
and/or spyware. 



Smart Computing / August 2004 47 



Plugged In 



Sneakware uses deceptive means to 
sneak onto your computer. In theory, 
the user is still granting permission for 
the software to be installed, but the user 
is often unaware he is granting permis- 
sion. This is because said permission is 
buried deep within the terms and con- 
ditions of an application that contains 
the sneakware — terms and conditions 
the software developer hopes you don't 
take the time to review. 

Another sneaky thing about sneak- 
ware is that the vendor often tries to fool 
naive users into thinking they are at risk 
if they don't install it. For example, as 
you're Web surfing, you may see a pop- 
up dialog box labeled "Security Warn- 
ing" suddenly appear on-screen. The 
"Security Warning" label is intended to 
convince you that you must install the 
app it suggests to protect your computer 
from the very type of software that will 
be installed if you click Yes to approve 
the installation. Recently, we've come 
across sneakware so deceptive in this re- 
gard that if you decline to install the 
software, a second pop-up dialog box 
states, "You must click Yes to install," or 
"Download ABORTED. You must click 
YES." At this point, many people are no 
doubt scared, fooled, or confused into 
installing the sneakware. 

Unlike adware, which tracks brows- 
ing activities and delivers pop -up ads, 
sneakware often makes changes to your 
system. You might find these changes in 
the small print of the terms and condi- 
tions, but the sneakware vendor hopes 
you don't read them. Typical changes 
include hijacking (changing) your 
home page, changing your default 
search engine, adding a toolbar to your 
browser interface, deactivating other 
browser toolbars, and adding porno- 
graphic bookmarks to your browser. 
Don't bother trying to undo these 
changes because the sneakware will ei- 
ther prevent you from doing so or auto- 
matically reapply the changes. 

Dangers Lurk Everywhere 

Some of the dangers of spyware, 
such as identity theft and financial 



fraud, are obvious, but there are other 
serious problems associated with spy- 
ware, adware, and sneakware. 

First, these applications steal your 
bandwidth, slowing down your Internet 
connection. Adware is especially harm- 
ful in this regard, using your bandwidth 
to pepper you with unwanted pop -up 
ads. These applications also steal your 
bandwidth by transmitting data to and 
from your computer over the Internet. 

Second, these apps may cause slug- 
gish performance on your computer 
because they are always running as 
background processes. This means they 
are using your computer's processor, 




Do you want to install and run " 

to]he_Ljc :-. r 'r--: v-z- .r: . -. : 

" signed on 1 /20/2004 1 1 :57 AM and 
distributed by: 

CDT inc. 

.'.... r ■ ■: '' ,■ ; , - .: .. . . 

Caution: CDT ir t is safe. You 

should only inst lis content if jjou trust CDT inc. to 

• ■. ■■-. 



j .' Always trust content from CDT ir 



Beware of dialog boxes that try to trick you 
into installing sneakware, as this one does. 

memory, and resources just like any 
other open application. 

Third, sneakware may replace your 
home page with one that contains adult 
and/or sexual material, which is espe- 
cially distressing when children use 
your PC and see this type of content. 

Last, these applications often con- 
tain bugs that can cause your system 
to crash. 

How Secure Are You? 

Antivirus applications and firewalls 
often give users a false sense of security, 
especially with respect to spyware (al- 
though adware and sneakware are also 
problems in this regard). Even though 
antivirus applications will stop some 
Trojan horses that contain spyware, 
they aren't 100% effective because spy- 
ware technically isn't a computer virus. 

Firewalls can stop crackers, but they 
won't stop you from downloading and 



installing a Trojan horse application. 
Nor can they stop drive-by downloads 
because firewalls only prevent unautho- 
rized access to your system. When you 
contact a site that downloads spyware, 
you have in effect authorized commu- 
nication with that site. A firewall cannot 
distinguish between good and evil types 
of communication. So, basically, fire- 
walls stop crackers who try to initiate 
unauthorized contact, but they can't 
protect you from yourself. 

However, a good firewall — one that 
monitors both inbound and outbound 
communications from your com- 
puter — can alert you after the fact that 
spyware, adware, or sneakware has been 
installed on your computer. Because all 
of these malicious applications try to 
send information about you back to the 
company, individual, or organization 
behind the spyware, adware, or sneak- 
ware, firewalls are configured to notice 
this type of behavior. The first time one 
of these applications attempts to 
transmit information, your firewall will 
display a pop-up window informing 
you that a new application is trying to 
access your Internet connection; if you 
don't recognize the name of the appli- 
cation, you may have spyware, adware, 
or sneakware on your computer. 

The current version of ICF (Internet 
Connection Firewall), the free firewall 
that comes with Windows XP, doesn't 
monitor outbound communications 
and, therefore, won't detect spyware, 
adware, or sneakware when it attempts 
to send its booty out over the Internet. 
But another popular and effective free 
firewall, ZoneAlarm from Zone Labs 
(http://www.zonelabs.com), does mon- 
itor outbound communications. 

Who's behind the thousands of spy- 
ware, adware, and sneakware versions? 
For the most part, legitimate companies 
are behind adware and sneakware, and 
their motive is profit (even if they have 
to use deception for monetary gains). 
The origins of spyware are more sin- 
ister. The popular perception that kids 
and individual crackers are behind 
spyware is probably false, says Roger 
Thompson, vice president of product 



48 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



development for PestControl, an anti- 
spyware company. 

"In February alone, 29 versions of 
one spyware program were unleashed, 
and these programs exploit all of 
Microsoft's vulnerabilities," Thompson 
says. "A considerable amount of re- 
sources are required to release so many 
variations of spyware and exploit all of 
these vulnerabilities, and this points to 
the possibility that organized crime is 
involved. These people are skilled at 
working below the radar of law enforce- 
ment and are very difficult to catch." 

Detection & Removal 

An anti-spyware software industry 
has emerged to help users detect and re- 
move spyware, adware, and sneakware 
from their computers. The anti-spy- 
ware industry has not yet adopted the 
antivirus software industry business 
model of providing a memory- resident 
scanner that inoculates your computer 
against spyware, adware, and sneak- 
ware, but it is moving in that direction. 

Currently, most anti-spyware prod- 
ucts scan your computer and detect spy- 
ware, adware, and sneakware after it has 
already been installed. Three popular 
anti-spyware products are Lavasoft's 
Ad-aware (http://www.lavasoftusa 
.com), Spybot Search & Destroy (http:// 
www.safer-networking.org), and Pest- 
Patrol (http://www.pestpatrol.com) . 

Although market share statistics are 
unavailable, Ad-aware is immensely 
popular because the standard edition of 
the product is free. The two premium 
editions, Ad-aware Plus ($26.95) and 
Ad-aware Professional ($39.95), pro- 
vide Lavasoft with the revenue stream 
necessary to support the free version. 
(This is similar to Zone Labs' business 
model for its ZoneAlarm firewall 
product line.) Spybot Search & Destroy, 
developed by Patrick M. Kolla, also is 
free, but donations are encouraged. 
PestPatrol, from PestPatrol Inc., costs 
$39.95 for a home user license, but a 
free evaluation version also is available. 

After you install an anti-spyware 
product on your computer, you should 



perform weekly scans of your 
hard drive. You also must keep 
your product updated with the 
latest reference/signature files so it 
detects the most recent spyware, 
adware, and sneakware versions. 

One of the problems associated 
with spyware detection is that le- 
gitimate programs may be used 
for illegitimate purposes. "So 
much of spyware detection is con- 
text-sensitive," says Thompson of 
PestPatrol. "Programs such as 
Symantec's pcAnywhere and 
Ethereal [an open-source net- 
work-analysis tool] can be put to 
legitimate or illegitimate uses. 
When we find these products on a 
computer, we have to leave it up 
to the user to determine whether 
or not they should be there." 

Tread Carefully 



1-, go to Control Pannel -> Add/Remove Pi 



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SCROLL DOWN TO SECTIC :<NDITIONS. 

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Here are some important tips 
for keeping your computer free of 
spyware, adware, and sneakware. 

Use antivirus software and 
keep it up-to-date. Antivirus soft- 
ware products block some Trojan 
horses that contain spyware, so 
make sure your antivirus applica- 
tion is current. 

Install a firewall. Install a good 
software-based firewall that mon- 
itors both inbound and outbound com- 
munications from your computer so it 
can alert you to the fact that spyware, 
adware, or sneakware has been in- 
stalled. We also suggest that you use 
some type of residential gateway, such 
as a router, to offer hardware-based 
firewall protection. But remember: The 
firewall can only stop crackers; it can't 
stop you from unwittingly installing 
spyware on your computer. 

Install anti-spyware and stay cur- 
rent. Install anti-spyware and run reg- 
ular scans of your hard drive in case 
something slips through. Keep the 
anti-spyware up-to-date with the 
latest reference/signature files or it 
will become as useless as out-of-date 
antivirus software. 



', "us" means BLAZEFIND.COM., "Softwar 
ted third party software, including any u 
software. 



s set forth below. The Softwa 
y memory (RAM) or installed 
;k, CD-ROM or other storage 



The small print in the terms and conditions of 
this application reveals that sneakware will 
change the user's home page, install bookmarks 
leading to adult and/or sexual content, and 
deactivate browser toolbars. 



Properly configure your browser's 
security settings. This is particularly 
important if you're using Internet 
Explorer as your Web browser. IE has a 
"feature" that lets software automati- 
cally install on your computer. To dis- 
able this feature and stop drive-by 
downloads, change your IE security set- 
tings. Launch IE, click Internet Options 
from its Tools menu, click the Security 
tab, and click the Custom Level button. 
From the next dialog box, look below 
the ActiveX Controls And Plug-ins 
heading and set the options as follows: 

• Select the Prompt radio button below 
Download Signed ActiveX Controls 

• Select the Disable radio button 
below Download Unsigned ActiveX 
Controls 



Smart Computing / August 2004 49 







• Select the Disable radio button below 
Initialize And Script ActiveX Con- 
trols Not Marked As Safe 

• Select the Prompt radio button below 
Run ActiveX Controls And Plug- ins 

• Select the Prompt radio button below 
Script ActiveX Controls Marked Safe 
For Scripting 

Alternately, you can use a more se- 
cure Web browser that isn't as suscep- 
tible to drive-by downloads, such as 
Opera 7.51 (free version includes 
banner ads, $39 version is ad-free; 
http://www.opera.com) or Mozilla 1.6 
(free; http://www.mozilla.org). 

Back up your hard drive every day. If 
your PC becomes infected with a new 
spyware, adware, or sneakware version, 
your anti- spyware may not be able to 
detect and remove it. But if you have a 
recent backup of your hard drive, you'll 
be able to restore your system to its 
pre-infected configuration. 

Beware of freeware. Before you in- 
stall freeware on your computer, check 
the application's pedigree. Surf the Web 
for product reviews and read the soft- 
ware's terms and conditions before in- 
stalling it to be certain it doesn't contain 
any unwanted baggage. 

Just say, "no." Click No or close all 
pop -up windows that want you to in- 
stall some type of extra application, 
such as a browser plug-in you've never 
heard of before. Such applications al- 
most always contain sneakware. Re- 
member: You may have to say "no" 
several times before you can escape the 
clutches of the sneakware vendor. 

Watch out for the most pervasive 
adware. Don't install Xupiter, Bonzi- 
BUDDY, Comet Cursor, or Claria 
products such as Gator eWallet, Dash- 
Bar, or Precision Time on your system 
unless you believe these applications 
add so much value that you are will- 
ing to put up with the effects of the 
bundled adware. 

Don't trust adware uninstall pro- 
grams. Some adware versions have an 
uninstall program that displays when 
you click the Add Or Remove Programs 
icon in Windows' Control Panel. 



Unfortunately, the adware uninstall 
program may remove the core applica- 
tion (the useful utility that came bun- 
dled with the adware) but leave the 
adware components behind to continue 
monitoring your activities. Unless you 
know how to edit your Windows 
Registry to manually uninstall the un- 
wanted components, the only safe way 
to remove spyware, adware, or sneak- 
ware is to use anti-spyware. 

The Name Game 

As we indicated, there are distinct 
differences between spyware, adware, 
and sneakware; however, it is be- 
coming increasingly common for se- 
curity experts and writers to use the 
term "spyware" to generically refer to 
all three types of software. Other 
generic names, such as "malware," 
have also emerged. The tendency to 
group all of these malicious applica- 
tions together under one generic name 
stems from the fact that the lines sepa- 
rating these applications are blurring. 

For example, Xupiter is adware that 
sometimes asks for permission to be 
installed and sometimes installs itself 
without permission via a drive-by 
download, the latter of which better 
fits the definition of spyware. 

Recent attempts to pass federal 
anti-spyware legislation have been de- 
toured by the difficulty in coming to 
an agreement over an acceptable defi- 
nition for spyware. 

The name game has even caused 
one anti-spyware company, Lavasoft, 
to stop using the terms altogether. 
Instead, it gives each piece of of- 
fending software a threat assessment 
rating. As a result, Ad-aware detects 
any software with a rating of 3 or 
higher. You can enter the name of a 
particular application on Lavasoft's 
Web site to find its threat assessment 
rating, along with a detailed explana- 
tion of the rating. <sigh> If only 
things were again as simple as the 
good oP days of "I Spy." II 

by Alan Luber 



Sue Me, 
Sue You Blues 

Not surprisingly, the spyware/ 
adware/sneakware industry 
is rampant with litigation. Several 
companies have sued adware com- 
panies for allegedly infringing on 
their Web sites. For example, the 
United Parcel Service has sued Gator 
for displaying FedEx pop-up ads 
when users visited the United Parcel 
Service Web site. Weight Watchers 
International has filed similar law- 
suits involving Gator pop-up ads. 

A group of publishers, including 
owners of The Washington Post, The 
New York Times, and USA Today, 
also sued Gator. Their complaint 
alleged that Gator is "a parasite on 
the Web that free rides on the hard 
work and investments of Plaintiffs 
and other website owners. Gator 
makes money by placing advertise- 
ments for third parties on the Plain- 
tiffs' websites without Plaintiffs' 
authorization." This lawsuit was 
settled out of court, with the out- 
come sealed from the public. 

Adware companies also have 
been the target of class action law- 
suits for using deceptive practices. 
Last year, Bonzi Software was sued 
for the deceptive practice known as 
FUls (fake user interfaces). For ex- 
ample, Bonzi was using the "x" in 
the upper-right corner of some of 
its windows as a button that di- 
rected users to commercial Web 
sites instead of using "x" to per- 
form the normal function associ- 
ated with it — that of closing the 
window. In the settlement, Bonzi 
agreed to discontinue the use of 
FUls in this manner. 

Adware companies have been 
striking back with lawsuits of their 
own. For example, Gator sued PC 
Pitstop (http://www.pcpitstop.com) 
for referring to its software as spy- 
ware instead of adware. The suit 
was settled out of court when PC 
Pitstop made changes to its Web 
site that satisfied Gator. I 



50 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Web T'ids 



Plugged In 



Build Sites For The 
(Super) Small Screen 

With the rising popularity 
of software products 
such as Adobe's GoLive 
and Macromedia's Dream- 
weaver, Web site develop- 
ment isn't the coding 
challenge it once was. But 
if you've ever seen a Web 
page on the tiny screen of 
one of these new, wireless, 
Internet- enabled hand- 
held devices, you probably 
wanted to <b>scream</b>. 
Webmonkey is a great 
source for finding articles 
and tips for all kinds of 
Web design challenges, 
but its article about dealing 
with small screen issues 
(http://hotwired.lycos.com 
/webmonkey/04/ 1 2/index4a 
.html) is particularly 
helpful. Of course, if you 
still have some questions 
about more traditional site 
building, Webmonkey 
organizes its articles by 
Beginners, Builders, and 
Masters, so you're sure to 
feel right at home when you 
work on your home page. 

Convert PDFs Into 
Web Pages 

The use of Adobe's PDF 
(Portable Document 
Format) file format con- 
tinues to grow, and although 
there are lots of reasons why 
people convert their docu- 
ments into PDFs, accessing 
these files online can some- 
times slow down the most 
productive of Web surfing 
sessions. Adobe seems to 
recognize this need and now 
has a handy but well-hidden 
form that converts an online 



PDF into HTML (Hyper- 
text Markup Language; the 

code used to create Web 
pages). So, when you're 
Web browsing and come 
across information in a 
PDF that you think you 
might want, consider vis- 
iting Adobe's converter at 
http://www.adobe.com/prod 
ucts/acrobat/access_simple_ 
form.html. Sure, Google 
(http://www.google.com) 
has this type of function on 
its results pages that contain 
PDFs, but now you know 
how to convert those pages 
that you find yourself. 

The Time Value 
Of Money 

If I had a dime every time 
someone told me that 
saving for retirement is 
important because of com- 
pound interest, I would 
probably have enough 
money to retire by now. 
But really, how much do 
you have to put away? 
How large do you want 
your nest egg to be when 
you end your work career? 
If you don't have a financial 
calculator handy (or if you 
wouldn't know how to use 



Time Value of Money Utility 
On-Line Utility for 
Finite Mathematics 
(2nd. Ed.) 



Topic Summary for Mathematics of Fin 
More On-Line Utilities 



To use the milky, till in any live of (he six ileitis and press "I nnipu e" m uh m i :x ni'-i \± quantity 
\'ote:Wc use (he tbllovein;.! eu:ne:i:iri:i. similar to that in standard tinaneial ealeukuirs. (he TI-K3. and. Excel: 
It a i/ihiittitv h /miii niit, it /.» cim i\ -.i .,'.> ;,V'.;if, , , , 'i\ . 



FV = 



What may look like a boring online form actually can save you a lot of 
time by calculating interest charges, payments, and future earnings. 



one if you did), go to this 
online utility for calculating 
the time value of money 
(http://people.hofstra.edu 
/faculty/stefan_waner 
/realwo rid/ tmvcalc.html) . 
Here's the real killer tip: 
Use this utility to calculate 
how to get out of credit 
card debt by entering a 
future value of zero and 
a present value of your 
current balance. 

Microsoft File 
Viewer/Converter 

Getting someone to open 
a Microsoft Word file that 
you sent her isn't nearly as 
difficult as it once was (cer- 
tainly not like in the days 
of Word vs. WordPerfect). 
Sure, many people own 
Microsoft Office, but what 




Don't let complex Web site design problems make a monkey out 
of you. Let Webmonkey be your guide. 



do you do when somebody 
doesn't have that particu- 
lar software package? Of 
course, you might be more 
likely to run into this kind 
of problem if you send 
someone a Microsoft Visio 
document, but either way, 
it's good to know that 
Microsoft has a page on its 
site that features converters 
for opening files created 
with different versions 
of Office (http://www 
.microsoft.com/office/OOO 
/viewers. asp). You'll find 
viewers on this page that 
allow folks who don't have 
any version of Microsoft's 
programs to see your work. 

Division In The Kitchen 

If you've spent any time in 
the kitchen, you know it's 
frustrating when you find 
a perfect recipe that serves 
eight people but you're 
cooking for only two or 
three people. Halving a 
recipe isn't difficult, but 
dividing it by quarters and 
thirds is more troublesome 
. . . unless you have a recipe 
conversion calculator. And 
that's where we come in; 
you'll find a simple online 
tool that can help at 
http://kmiller.ecorp.net 
/recipe. Bon appetit! 



Smart Computing / August 2004 51 



find it online 



Plugged In 



Compiled byjoshua Gulick 




Crafts 

http://www.i-craft.com 

The Hobby Industry Association's 
aptly named Crafts Web site has hun- 
dreds of projects that range from the 
easy to the complex. Most projects, 
such as Sluggo The Snail, require only 
a few easy-to-fmd components. Each 
craft features step-by-step instructions 
and diagrams that walk you through 
the project, which means that even 
newcomers can create handsome snail 
key chains and wire-wrapped candles. 
The Web site has a large General Crafts 
section but also features a Kids' Corner 
and a Senior Center, both of which 
have additional projects. Oddly enough, 
you'll need to enter your email address 
when you enter a Crafts' section. Crafts 
doesn't have an online store, but it lists 
many online retailers and mail-order 
catalogs, and it has a search engine that 
lists local craft retailers. 

EnchantedLearning.conrTs 
Crafts For Kids 

http://www.enchantedlearning.com 

Looking for some kid- oriented 
craft projects? Visit the Enchanted- 
Learning.com Web site and click the 
Crafts icon. You can browse the lengthy 
list of project topics alphabetically or, if 
you're planning to use (or avoid) certain 
products, you can search for projects by 
material. Most of the projects require 
household materials, such as flour (for 
papier-mache), toilet paper roll tubes, 
and newspaper. Our favorite project, 
the Balloon Ghost, requires only a bal- 
loon, tape, and plastic bags. Of course, 
EnchantedLearning.com has much 
more than project instructions. The site 
has tons of interesting facts and photos 
for young children. 



Take Your 
Hobby To The 'Net 



Hobby Lobby 

http://www.hobbylobby.com 

If you have a Hobby Lobby in your 
area, you probably already know that it 
has a wide range of products, including 
craft materials and components for RC 
(radio control) devices. Hobby Lobby's 
Web site offers information about gift 
certificates, store locations, and in- store 
classes, but it doesn't include an online 
store. If you want to shop Hobby 
Lobby online, visit Crafts Etc. (http:// 
www.craftsetc.com); its online store 
also has several project ideas and a Tips 
And Tricks area. If you don't find the 
information you're looking for, post a 
message on Crafts Etc.'s Community 
section, which has free forums. 

Hobby People 

http://www.hobbypeople.net 

Hobby People (formerly Hobby 
Shack) focuses on model boats, cars, 
helicopters, planes, and trains. You can 
find plenty of plastic- only models, but 
if you're looking for motorized models, 
you'll love Hobby People's huge selec- 
tion of motorized model kits and motor 
components. Browse the large Web site 
by category or search for specific prod- 
ucts by part number or keyword. The 
Community section offers several guides 
for beginning modelers, the Hobby Cal- 
endar (which lists events), and the Race 
Connection, which has details about 
Hobby People's parking lot races. 

HobbyTalk 

http://www.hobbytalk.com 

If you build remote-control cars, 
stop by HobbyTalk to get the latest 
information about upcoming events, 
product recalls, and new products. 
HobbyTalk doesn't sell products, 



instead offering user-submitted re- 
views and a new RC Swap And Sell 
area. The Radio Control area includes 
tips for beginners and experienced 
hobbyists. HobbyTalk's most impor- 
tant feature is its Forums section, 
which breaks into several categories, 
including DieCast Collecting, Mod- 
eling, and Radio Control. If you'd 
like to post your own questions or 
replies, you can register for all of 
the forums free. 

HobbyTown USA 

http://www.hobbytown.com 

RC enthusiasts will love HobbyTown 
USA's large remote- control vehicle se- 
lection, but HobbyTown doesn't cater 
only to adults. You'll find kid-friendly 
science projects and games at the online 
store, which breaks its categories into 
"Towns," including RC Airplane Town, 
Railroad Town, and Toy Town. If you 
spot a product you'd like to buy, click 
the Shop Online button and choose a 
local HobbyTown USA store to find out 
if it stocks that product. HobbyTown 
USA also offers a free email newsletter 
and online magazine. 

Rocketry Online 

http://www.rocketryonline.com 

If you build and launch model 
rockets, take a look at the Rocketry 
Online Web site. The main page offers 
news about legislation and court rulings 
that affect rocketry hobbyists, as well as 
links to other relevant articles. Rocketry 
Online also provides a free online auc- 
tion house that lets enthusiasts hawk 
rocket kits, launch pads, and "Missile- 
aneous" components. In addition, the 
site offers a Forums section that lets 
enthusiasts trade tips and tricks. 



52 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



That's 

NEWS 

To Yo u 



Finding the appropriate Usenet 
discussion group to match your inter- 
ests can be a monumental task. So 
each month, we scour tens of thou- 
sands of newsgroups and highlight 
the ones that delve into popular 
topics. If your ISP (Internet service 
provider) doesn't carry these groups, 
ask it to add the groups to its list. 
This month we search for hobby help. 



reccrafts 

Are you looking for certain craft 
materials or planning to sell your 
own? Post your offer or request to 
reccrafts. Users occasionally post 
questions about projects to this 
group, but if you're having trouble 
finding the right craft project or pot- 
tery clay, you're probably better off 
posting to one of its siblings, such 
as reccrafts.dol I houses, reccrafts 
.pottery, or reccrafts.jewelry. 



rec.models.railroad 

If you build model trains, share your 
experience or questions with other 
model train enthusiasts. Users here 
swap information and stories and 
occasionally post offers to buy or sell 
supplies. As with most user groups, 
you'll find that some irrelevant posts 
slip into the mix, but most users 
post legitimate messages. 



Share The Wares 

Some of the best apples in the online orchard are the free 
(or free to try) programs available for download. Each month we 
feature highlights from our pickings. This month we spend some 
time on our hobbies. 



Comic Book Millennium 3.1 

http://www.coletechno.com 

If your comic book collection is getting out of control, download 
Cole Software's Comic Book Millennium. The software lets you 
enter several values, including the book's Title, Publisher, Cover 
Price, Writer, Artist, and Amount Paid. Thanks to its Run feature, 
you can add an entire series (or portions of a series, if you are 
missing certain issues) at once. After you enter your collection, you 
can search for individual comic books by any of the values you en- 
tered and print reports and labels. Comic Book Millennium also lets 
you keep track of comic books you plan to buy. It has a feature that 
monitors your collection and removes a particular comic book from 
your Want list when you add it to the collection. Try Comic Book 
Millennium free, register it for $14, or buy the CD-ROM for $22.99. 

Crossdown 6.0 

http://www.crossdown.com 

Do you carry half- finished crossword puzzles in your pocket 
for weeks at a time? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Crossdown's 
Crossdown 6.0 lets you build your own brain twisters. The software 
offers a variety of grid sizes and special tools that let you create 
custom block patterns. To create a crossword, simply choose your 
grid and enter the crossword answers and space blocks. Once you add 
the crossword's answers, you can add the game's clues. If you're plan- 
ning to create multiple crossword puzzles, you'll enjoy the Cluebank, 
which lets you store puzzle clues, and Librarian, which organizes and 
displays clue answers. If you have trouble developing the next The 
New York Times crossword puzzle, click the Web site's How To Make 
A Crossword button to read a tutorial by an expert who already has. 

We were surprised to see that Crossdown lets you publish your 
crossword puzzle to a variety of formats. You can export your 
puzzles to PDF (Portable Document Format) files or to the Web. 
Plus, you can create standalone crossword puzzle games to share 
with your friends. Crossdown also includes several ready- to-go 
crosswords, which means you can practice before creating your 
own. Crossdown is compatible with Windows 95 and newer OSes 

(operating systems). 
Download the free 
demo or buy the full 
program for $59.95 
(download) or $69.95 
(CD-ROM). 




Finally, a crossword 
puzzle application that 
lets you make up your 
own answers. 



Smart Computing / August 2004 53 



LC FLATROISP LCDs. 

Available in LC, XLC and XXLC 




©2004 LC Electronic U.S.A., Inc. 



Available at: 




BesH^^n- L2320A - 23" Wide-Screen HD/WUXGA LCD Monitor 





Because one size does not fit all. 

With screen sizes from 15" to 30", offering features 
such as DVI and HD inputs or TV function, there's 
a perfect LG fit for every home or office. LG LCD 
monitors offer exceptional quality, innovative 
features and are all backed by an outstanding 
3 -year replacement warranty. 

The view is better with LG. 

www.LGUSA.com 







'Ood 




Contents 




Tech Support: Going, 




Going, Gone? 


56 


Down & Out 




& Offshore 


58 


Support Showdown 


62 


Get Better Support 


66 


Your Best Bet 


70 


Help Yourself 


74 



Support 



Going, Going 



The State Of 

Customer 

Service In The 

Computer 

Industry 



56 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.corr 



Complaints about tech- 
nical support services 
are nothing new. Ev- 
ery technological in- 
novation has its kinks, 
and the people who have to live 
with those kinks won't like them. 
Indeed, surveys conducted by Con- 
sumer Reports, Technology Busi- 
ness Research, and others show that 
the customer service satisfaction 
ratings for some of the world's 
largest computer companies have 
slipped. Anecdotal evidence taken 
from online blogs and chat rooms 
suggests that users are more fed up 



than ever. There's certainly plenty 
to grumble about, but is the situa- 
tion really that bad? 

Put It In Perspective 

Not everyone is convinced it is. 
"It's not clear to me that tech sup- 
port is declining," says Dr. Richard 
Feinberg, director of the Center for 
Customer Driven Quality at Purdue 
University. "If you take the dissatis- 
faction experience as a percentage of 
all contact an individual has with a 
company, I believe the level of dis- 
satisfaction is going down." 



The Death Of Tech Support | 



G 



Of course, not all companies 
offer all of these resources, but 
there are still many that do. 

Yet despite the honest efforts 
of thousands of technology 
companies to provide quality 
support options, consumers 
continue to complain about the 
service they receive when they 
need help the most. What 
gives? Feinberg believes the 
mood of dissatisfaction is due 
in no small part to consumer 
expectations. "Consumers ex- 
pect to get the right answer 
within three seconds," he says. 
"It's gotten [to the point] where 
companies just can't keep up." 



He's probably right. Re- 
putable hardware manufac- 
turers and software developers 
have a genuine desire to keep 
their customers happy. And 
technology consumers in the 
21st century have more support 
resources at their disposal than 
any group of consumers at any 
point in time ever. In addition 
to traditional phone-based sup- 
port options, consumers can get 
help with their technical issues 
by looking in the back of the 
users manual, logging on to a 
searchable online support data- 
base, perusing FAQs (frequently 
asked questions) at company 
Web sites, submitting questions 
via email, or participating in 
real-time interactive chats with 
trained support technicians. 
Other resources include in- 
home service calls and Web- 
based support forums where 
consumers can have their ques- 
tions answered by fellow users. 



No one can argue with that. 
We as a society tend to unrea- 
sonably expect perfection from 
everyone: our politicians, our 
schools, our doctors, our air- 
lines, even our fast food restau- 
rants. It's no surprise that we 
would expect the same from our 
computer companies. But that 
doesn't mean we should let these 
companies off the hook. 

"They've created their own 
monster," Feinberg says. "The 
industry has said we'll help you 
24 hours a day, seven days a 
week. There's no going back on 
that now." 

Nonetheless, obtaining good, 
consistent technical support is a 
very real problem, as documented 
in our "Support Showdown" ar- 
ticle on page 62. When major 
companies purport to offer — but 
consistently fail to provide — accu- 
rate and helpful support, it results 
in angry, frustrated consumers. 

Tech Support Today 

To meet the seemingly insa- 
tiable demand for quality service, 
the industry has had to develop a 
new system for providing tech- 
nical assistance. Unlike the pre- 
vious system, which was char- 
acterized by a remote technician 
dishing out solutions on a first- 
come, first- served basis, the new 
system is typically built around a 
searchable Web data- 
base that lets a com- 



As a result of the push toward 
commoditized support services, 
companies have had to cut the 
costs related to phone-based 
support. They do so by hiding 
their support phone numbers to 
minimize calls, charging cus- 
tomers a fee for calls, and — most 
notoriously — outsourcing their 
support services to cheaper off- 
shore firms located in Canada, 
Europe, and Asia. 

There Is Hope 

But all is not lost. Consumers 
can avoid becoming slaves to 
technical support services by 
purchasing products from com- 
panies that have established rep- 
utations for providing quality 
service, as well as learning how 
to deal with tech support rep- 
resentatives (see "Get Better 
Support" on page 66), taking 
advantage of the many self-help 
resources that are currently 
available (see "Help Yourself on 
page 74), and practicing pru- 
dent computing habits so as to 
avoid needing technical support 
in the first place (see "Your Best 
Bet" on page 70). After all, you 
can solve your problems faster 
and more efficiently than any- 
one else. Who can complain 
about that? II 

by Jeff Dodd 



pany service more 
users in a more con- 
venient and timely 
manner. "It's the mass 
commoditization of 
technical services," says 
Phil Fersht, senior ana- 
lyst at the Yankee 
Group. "[Technical 
support] is now a 
quick, easy, and cheap 
process rather than a 
personalized program." 



Looking For More Help? 

SmartComputing.com is a great tech support resource. 
Smart Computing subscribers have access to: 

• 20,000+ articles on various PC-related topics 

• How-to's, reviews, and troubleshooting tips 

• Online dictionary, encyclopedia, and Q&A Board 

If you have a computing problem you're unable to solve, 
try using our Web site. If you can't find the answer on 
our site, contact us at (800) 368-8304 and we'll help 
you locate the answer. 



http://www.smartcomputing.com 



Smart Computing / August 2004 57 



Down & Out & Offshore 



The Decline Of Tech Support 




Dan Kroeger had received un- 
deliverable message errors 
before. What made the sud- 
den appearance of these par- 
ticular undeliverables so troubling was 
that they were addressed to people he 
didn't know. The retired maintenance 
analyst from Milwaukee, Wis., assessed 
the situation and quickly determined 
that the unknown individuals were 
listed in his Clickability address book. 
That signaled a problem. 

Clickability is a program The Wall 
Street Journal Online, CNN Interactive, 
and other online content providers 
offer to site visitors as a way of helping 
them email interesting articles to 
friends and colleagues. Kroeger had 
used the program without incident for 
more than three years. Now, for reasons 
he couldn't understand, Clickability was 
attempting to send articles to people he 
didn't even know. 

So Kroeger did what any computer 
user with a problem would do: He sent 




Clickability an email message asking for 
help. When the company failed to re- 
spond, he sent another. And another. 
And another. He also made a few phone 
calls on his own dime (Clickability, like 
many technology companies, doesn't 
provide a toll-free phone number to its 
customers) but was forced to leave voice 
messages and never received a response. 
Frustrated with the situation, Kroeger 
sent Clickability one final message and 
carbon copied it to the editor of The 
Wall Street Journal Online. Perhaps be- 
cause it did not want to annoy one of its 
biggest accounts, Clickability responded 
within eight hours. The ensuing email 
conversation went something like this: 

Clickability: Thank you for your 
email. Please reply with detailed infor- 
mation about the problem you are en- 
countering. Regards, Clickability 
Customer Care. 

Kroeger: Here is my problem . . . 
(outlines the problem in detail) 

Clickability: Thank you for your 
reply. We will get back to 
you soon. 

Kroeger: (after four days 
with no response) Remem- 
ber me? I'm still having 
problems with strange 
addresses in my Clicka- 
bility address book. 

Clickability: Thank 
you for your email. Please 
try to delete and reset 
your cookies. 

Kroeger: I did what 
you asked me to do, and 
it has not helped. What is 
happening here? 

Clickability: Thank 
you for your email. We 
are sorry the problem is 
still happening. We are 




looking into your ac- 
count and need more 
information. 

Kroeger: Here it is . . . 
(provides the requested 
information) 

That was four weeks ago. Kroeger has 
yet to hear a response. 

Common Complaints 

Dan Kroeger isn't the only computer 
user to have an unpleasant experience 
with tech support services. Anecdotal 
evidence suggests widespread dissatis- 
faction with customer service in general 
and technical support service in partic- 
ular. Consumer Reports magazine re- 
ports that technical support services in 
the computer industry regularly receive 
some of the lowest customer satisfac- 
tion ratings among all services the mag- 
azine tracks. Why? 

No one knows for certain, says Chris 
Selland, the vice president of sell-side 
research at the Aberdeen Group. 
Selland reports that while individual 
companies often maintain statistics 
about call volume and hold times, it's 
difficult for industry analysts to draw 
conclusions by comparing these met- 
rics. "It's like comparing apples and or- 
anges," Selland says. "You can't even 
compare how Microsoft supports 
Windows and how it supports Micro- 
soft Office and how it supports System 
Server because there are so many 
variables involved." 

Nevertheless, a conscientious listener 
is bound to recognize several common 
complaints cited by disgruntled com- 
puter users, including difficulty ac- 
cessing a support technician, lack of 
resolution, language barriers, and out- 
right disrespect for the consumer. 



58 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 







!a 


v 1 



The Death Of Tech Support | 




Difficulty accessing a support tech- 
nician. Many computer users complain 
that it has become both cumbersome 
and costly to get a living, breathing ser- 
vice technician on the line. Companies 
may hide their support phone numbers 
in the users manual or behind several 
layers of Web hyperlinks. We had to 
burrow five pages deep to find support 
numbers at both the Microsoft and 
Symantec sites, for instance. And in 
both cases, we would have had to pay a 
considerable amount of money — $35 
for Microsoft and $29.95 for Symantec 
(or as much as $69.95 for Symantec's 
virus removal support) — for the privi- 
lege of using those numbers. 

Customers who manage to locate a 
phone number for free support service 
can expect to negotiate a labyrinth of 
automated messages and touchtone 
options only to end up listening to 
light jazz and company advertisements 
while waiting for a human being 
to pick up the phone. According to 
BenchmarkPortal, consumers can ex- 
pect to wait in queue an average of 
44.63 seconds when calling for help 
about hardware and 52.4 seconds 
when calling for help about software. 
Users who opt to submit their ques- 
tions by email, as Kroeger did, may 
wait days or weeks for a response ... if 
they get one at all. 

Lack of a resolution. Users who con- 
tact technical support services generally 
have one goal in mind: to obtain a solu- 
tion to a problem. But for too many 
users, that goal is never achieved. Just 
ask Randy Hill. 



Hill is a Web designer 
in Alpine, N.J. He called 
technical support because 
the DVD-RW (DVD-re- 
writeable) drive in his Dell 
computer refused to burn 
(record data to) DVDs. 
Unlike Kroeger, Hill was 
able to reach a live techni- 
cian when he made his 
phone calls, and he ex- 
plained his problem. A 
solution was suggested, at- 
tempted, and failed. Hill 
called again. Another solution was 
suggested, attempted, and failed. After 
spending approximately 20 hours on 
the phone with various technicians 
over the course of a week, Hill decided 
he'd had just about enough. That's 
when a technician suggested that Hill 
would need a new optical drive. 

Assuming this was a job he could 
do faster and with less frustration if he 
undertook it himself, Hill declined the 
on-site support he was qualified to re- 
ceive. Instead, he asked the technician 
to send him the drive so he could in- 
stall it on his own. The technician was 
more than happy to oblige, and Hill 
received the new drive within five 
days. That's when he received a shock: 
Dell had shipped him a DVD-ROM 
drive instead of a DVD-RW drive. 

Hill had no use for the DVD-ROM 
drive, so when he began experiencing 
other problems with the computer, 
he became so fed up that he gave 
the system to his nephew. "I never 
called Dell after that because I was 
sick of them." 

Hill's experience is not unique, and 
that's a serious problem, says Barry 
Jacobs, publisher of "Defying The 
Limits," a print and online project de- 
voted to CRM (customer relationship 
management) issues. "You have to 
start from the premise that the first 
point of contact in any business situa- 
tion is the most important contact." 
Companies need to take their re- 
sponsibility seriously and resolve a 
customer's technical problems as 
quickly as possible, he says. "Whether 



it's a Web chat or a phone conver- 
sation, if it doesn't go smoothly, the 
company is going to hurt its chances of 
having a happy customer." 

Hill certainly wasn't a happy cus- 
tomer. He says he'll never do business 
with Dell again, and he's shared his ex- 
perience with others in hopes that they 
won't do business with Dell, either. 

Language barrier. Then there's the 
language barrier resulting from the in- 
crease in offshore outsourcing of tech- 
nical support services. Selland of the 
Aberdeen Group says the economic and 
patriotic facets of this hot-button issue 
have drawn attention away from what is 
arguably the most important point a 
company should consider when sending 
its support services overseas: Will the 
contracted employees provide quality 
service to the company's customers? 

"I believe that 99% of consumers 
don't care where the support comes 
from as long as it's good support, with 
the 1% of consumers who do care being 
the people who were laid off from a do- 
mestic call center," he says. "But if a 
company is handling support by hiring 
people who can't speak English, that 
company is not handling support the 
right way." 

Whatever a person's position on the 
issue of offshoring, a few facts remain 
beyond dispute. First, the career track 
for a person in technical support ser- 
vices is generally much more appealing 
to an individual in, say, India or the 
Philippines than it is for a U.S. citizen. 
As a result, support technicians in de- 
veloping nations are more likely to be 
highly educated and highly motivated. 
Second, it is often much cheaper for a 
company to hire technicians living in 
another country than it is to hire 
Americans. A college-educated indi- 
vidual from the United States is not 
likely to be satisfied with a job that pays 
less than $10 an hour. 

As long as the technology industry 
relies on offshore technical support ser- 
vices, the burden rests with stateside 
software and hardware companies to 
train the technicians so that they have 
the skills to handle customer concerns. 



Smart Computing / August 2004 59 



^ Symantec. 



united states I 

global sites 

products a nd services 

pure i;i.e 

sjpport 

security response 

downloads 

about Symantec 



■:;, :: : ' , :?':.:; ■;., 



That means cultural skills, as well as 
technical skills, says Art Schoeller, a se- 
nior analyst with the Yankee Group. 
"The really good performers are the 
ones who ensure their agents are 
trained in cultural affinity and accent 
neutralization," Schoeller says. "The 
good ones will have their agents 
watching 'Seinfeld' during their breaks." 

Disrespect for the consumer. Despite 
the long wait times, the failed solutions, 
and the cultural barriers, many com- 
puter users would be willing to forgive 
their hardware manufacturers and soft- 
ware developers if these 
companies only did one 
thing: treat their customers 
with respect. 

One way they can do that 
is by accepting responsi- 
bility when a problem oc- 
curs. In the May 2004 issue 
of Smart Computing, col- 
umnist Alan Luber de- 
scribed how Symantec re- 
leased a buggy update and 
then did nothing to notify 
users about the problem. 
The failure to accept re- 
sponsibility sends the mes- 
sage that existing customers 
are less important than 
potential customers. 

Another way companies could show 
respect to the consumer is to assume 
that they know something about com- 
puters, says Julie Perron, manager of 
primary research at Technology Busi- 
ness Research. "Customers often com- 
plain that they're treated like idiots," she 
says. "[The support technicians] ask 
them questions like 'Is it plugged in?' 
rather than getting straight to the issue." 

Selland of the Aberdeen Group says 
companies should realize that typical 
PC users view phone-based support as a 
last- resort option and they only make 
the call after taking steps to fix obvious 
problems. "Most people," he explains, 
"actually prefer serving themselves if it's 
faster, quicker, and easier." Treating 
them as if they were simpletons not 
only prolongs the time it takes to find 
a solution but also increases customer 



agitation and ensures that customers 
have a poor support experience. 

Placing The Blame 

Whatever the complaints, one fact 
remains: Users aren't getting solutions 
to their problems in a timely and cour- 
teous fashion. The obvious cause is 
money. It costs a lot to produce and 
maintain a highly trained support staff. 
Companies try to defray those costs by 
minimizing training expenses, out- 
sourcing work to domestic or offshore 



support 

home &. home of I ce/smsll business 



online support 



free technical support 

The Automated -tant will identify 

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The Symantec Support site proudly proclaims that you can get online support 
for free but that you'll need to pay at least $29.95 for phone support. 



call centers, and offering financial in- 
centives that encourage technicians to 
answer more calls in less time. The re- 
sults of such economic efforts are often 
less than successful. After all, few con- 
sumers will be satisfied with the quality 
of the service as long as it's provided by 
unskilled individuals who want to hang 
up after a few minutes of talk time. 

Money isn't solely to blame, how- 
ever. Many of the analysts we inter- 
viewed suggest that the perceived 
decline in the quality of tech support 
has more to do with the evolution of 
the support model and less to do with 
an actual increase in consumer dissatis- 
faction. "The simple calls are going to 
self-service," Selland says, "and what re- 
mains are the calls that involve multiple 
stages and multiple support reps and 
are always challenging." Complicating 
matters is the fact that technology has 



evolved to the point where absolute 
neophytes can buy complex hardware 
and software. "This creates a very diffi- 
cult situation," says Jacobs of "Defying 
The Limits." "A technical person must 
be a saint, psychologist, and robot in 
order to help these customers." 

Whatever the problems, the solution 
may simply be time. "Self-help support 
options are getting better," says Perron. 
"In the beginning, the tools were less 
mature and [consumers] complained 
about navigation. But the more people 
use them, the more they improve." 

Schoeller of the Yankee 
Group thinks the quality of 
overseas phone and email 
support centers will improve, 
as well. "One thing that helps 
a call center run well is front- 
line managers," he explains. 
"We haven't been [overseas] 
long enough to grow enough 
front-line managers through 
the ranks." As U.S. depen- 
dence on overseas call centers 
continues to grow — and all 
of the analysts we interviewed 
believe it will — the techni- 
cians will gain the experience 
they need to handle just 
about any problem thrown 
their way. 



Facing The Future 

To users like Dan Kroeger and Randy 
Hill, such optimism may seem unwar- 
ranted. Indeed, it would be unwar- 
ranted if not for the one constant that 
governs business in a capitalist world. 

"The customer is king," Jacobs says. 
"If you want to be the No. 1 company, 
you need to have excellent customer 
service. These are costs that need to be 
spent. They are costs that provide 
tremendous revenue eventually." The 
promise of "tremendous revenue" is 
enough to keep even the most self- 
interested company focused on pro- 
viding quality customer service as long 
as its customers need it. II 

by Jeff Dodd 



60 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 




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Support Showdown 

We Put The Industry's Tech Support To The Test 



Regardless of whether you're 
a computer newbie or a 
master software program- 
mer, everyone needs tech- 
nical support at one time or another. 
Few programs or hardware devices 
run flawlessly all the time, and if 
you stumble upon a problem you 
can't solve, the company's tech sup- 
port is there to help you. At least, 
that's the idea. 

In reality, they might not be there 
to help you. Or they might be there, 
but they might not actually help. If 




you're lucky, they'll be there and help 
you. Such is life with tech support. 
You can never be entirely sure that 
your call or email to support will 
result in a solution to your problem. 
That's where we come in; we put 
28 companies to the test to see which 
companies can and can't deliver sup- 
port when we need it. 

What We Found 

Dealing with technical support is 
like seeing what's underneath the 
gray blocks on a lottery scratch 
ticket, albeit with slightly better 
odds. Sure, there's always a 
number or symbol under the 
first block you scratch on a 
ticket, but it rarely matches 
one of the winning numbers. 
Similarly, it's usually easy 
to find a support telephone 
number or email address when 
you run into computer trou- 
ble, but it's not so easy to get a 
quick answer. As you scratch 
off more blocks on the lottery 
ticket, you might win a dollar 
here or there, but you're not 
likely to find a winner under 
every block. The same is true 
of tech support, where you 
might encounter partial suc- 
cess during a call or email 
volley but seldom will you re- 
ceive a flawless transaction 
from beginning to end. 

For instance, a support rep- 
resentative might eventually 
fix your problem, but after 
waiting on hold for 20 minutes 
and being transferred to two 
other representatives (the last 
of which actually provides a 



working solution), you realize that 
you paid heavily in time and frustra- 
tion to get that solution. 

Lady Luck isn't always so elusive in 
the tech support world. In fact, our re- 
search revealed that when dealing with 
some companies, luck doesn't seem to 
be a factor at all because their support 
services reflect consistent quality with 
every call. Other companies reflect a 
similar consistency, but on the wrong 
end of the quality scale; we received 
poor support in one way or another 
each time we called. Surprisingly, one 
of the most frustrating support experi- 
ences we encountered occurred when 
one of our calls resulted in a positive 
result and the very next — to the same 
company — ended in a negative result. 

Although support can vary from call 
to call and company to company, it 
also appears to vary among the cate- 
gories of hardware, software, and ser- 
vices. We couldn't realistically include 
a massive sampling of companies 
within each category due to the space 
constraints of this article, but we still 
perceived differences in the quality of 
support between, for example, compa- 
nies offering Internet services and 
companies selling peripherals. Can we 
regard this as the luck of the draw (or 
the scratch, if you will) on the partic- 
ular day we called or emailed? Perhaps, 
but the C grades we gave out across the 
board for all ISPs (Internet service 
providers) we tested look rather dismal 
against all the As and Bs given to the 
peripheral-based companies. 

Of all the categories, companies 
selling peripherals delivered effective, 
knowledgeable support just about 
every time we contacted them, whereas 
ISPs rarely got it right. Also impressive 
were the companies selling OSes 



62 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



The Death Of Tech Support | 



(operating systems), software firewalls, 
and graphics applications. Several 
major computer manufacturers didn't 
fare as well, and neither did companies 
selling CD -burning software and an- 
tivirus software. Let's go over our re- 
sults now so you can see exactly which 
companies provided the best and worst 
support in each category. 

System Manufacturers 

Companies such as Dell, Gateway, 
and others that build and sell com- 
puters are intimately familiar with the 
support process, especially since many 
of their customers rely on them to solve 
just about any problem that surfaces at 
any time. But despite the years and 
years of support experience these com- 
panies have, some of the major players 
still can't provide effective support. 

Both of our test calls to HP met with 
long hold times, several transfers, and 
even two disconnections before we 
finally spoke to representatives who 
would handle our problems — neither 
of which they ever resolved. Gateway 
exhibited similar inefficiency, with rep- 
resentatives who suggested reinstalling 
the Gateway system software (including 
Windows) for problems that required 
less intensive fixes. Hold times varied 
wildly within the System Manufacturers 
category, as both calls to Compaq 
resulted in hold times of nearly 30 
minutes, whereas Dell representatives 
answered both of our calls within just a 
few minutes. Although Dell performed 
well in most tests, Alienware easily beat 
all the competitors we tested in this cat- 
egory. (Alienware sells fast, high- end 
computers.) It solved both of our prob- 
lems quickly and efficiently using repre- 
sentatives who seemed to be the most 
knowledgeable in this category. To be 
fair, though, Alienware sells systems to 
more advanced users so it's likely to 
receive fewer support calls. 

ISPs 

In the ISPs category, we tested two 
dial-up Internet providers (AOL and 



MSN) and two broadband 
providers (Comcast and Ver- 
izon), and none of them 
fared well. Only one — Com- 
cast — managed to solve one 
of the two problems we pre- 
sented to it, with the other 
call to the company and all 
of the other calls or emails 
in this category resulting 
in dead ends or advice that 
helped the problem but 
didn't solve it altogether. 

In the ISPs category more 
than any other, support rep- 
resentatives appeared to 
know the least about com- 
puters in general, even if the 
problem dealt with an Inter- 
net-related matter. During 
one call to MSN, the repre- 
sentative said he couldn't 
solve our Usenet connection 
problem because "most of 
the Internet does not support 
Usenet." Another company 
(Verizon) had one represen- 
tative who seemed to have 
expert knowledge of routers, 
while another rep wasn't sure how 
the basic PING (Packet Internet 
Groper) networking utility worked. 

On the bright side, this category 
featured some of the shortest tele- 
phone hold times, which is certainly 
a plus when you're in panic mode 
because your Internet connection 
is faltering. Unfortunately, those 
short hold times don't amount to 
much when the representative can't 
adequately resolve the problem, 
which was the case with most of 
these calls. 

OSes & Miscellaneous Software 

Along with the Peripherals category, 
we rated the OSes & Miscellaneous 
Software category high after com- 
pleting our tests. We came away par- 
ticularly impressed with the support 
the OS companies delivered, including 
Linux vendors Red Hat and SUSE 
(garnering A- and B+ overall grades, 




respectively), as well as Microsoft, 
which earned an overall B grade. 

The representatives from the Linux 
companies were well-versed in their 
companies' technologies and com- 
puters in general, and had little 
trouble solving both our simple and 
complex problems. Microsoft's sup- 
port reps displayed similar aptitude, 
although they required more time to 
find a proper solution. 

Also reliable in this group was the 
support from two major software fire- 
wall developers, ISS (Internet Security 
Systems, makers of BlacklCE) and 
Zone Labs (makers of ZoneAlarm), al- 
though Zone Labs wasn't able to solve 
one of our two problems. ISS, how- 
ever, emailed us almost instantly in 
response to our emailed support ques- 
tions and provided effective solutions 
to each problem. 

The OSes & Miscellaneous Soft- 
ware category didn't pass entirely 
with flying colors, though, primarily 



Smart Computing / August 2004 63 



due to the substandard support we 
received from two antivirus kingpins, 
McAfee and Symantec. Symantec 
representatives responded quickly 
to our inquiries, but they couldn't 
solve either of our software prob- 
lems. McAfee's support was similarly 
unimpressive, although the techni- 
cians were slightly more knowledge- 
able and helpful — that is, when they 
finally responded to our emailed 
problems. Both companies can take 
a lesson from WinZip, whose repre- 
sentative responded almost instan- 
taneously to both of our emailed 
questions and answered them politely 
and accurately. 



Productivity & Multimedia Software 

Another hit-and-miss category in- 
cluded companies that sell produc- 
tivity and multimedia software, 
although we did see some positive 
trends. For example, two major 
graphics software players — Adobe and 
Corel — earned A grades for their fan- 
tastic support, and considering that 
only six of the 28 companies we tested 
earned an A, we tend to think that 
graphics software companies consider 
support a priority. 

Again, you always deal with the 
luck of the draw and there are plenty 
of companies out there offering 



Experimental Fixes Can Nix Support 



When our cars break 
down on the high- 
way, our natural tendency 
is to pull over, shut off the 
engine, open the hood, 
and get out to take a look. 
Sure, most of us don't 
have an inkling of what 
we're looking at, but it 
sure beats sitting in the 
car and looking like a 
dummy. When the road- 
side service technician 
appears, we point at the 
engine and shake our 
head while he gets to 
work at actually fixing 
the problem. He doesn't 
care that you opened the 
hood; in fact, he expects it. 

Computer support 
representatives don't op- 
erate in quite the same 
manner. On the contrary, 
opening your PC case and 
messing with its internals 
could cause a rep to deny 
support, and often for 
good reason. Whereas 
many auto owners aren't 
about to plunge their 
hands under the hood to 
diagnose problems, PC 



owners often try to fix 
problems by adding new 
components (such as 
more memory) or 
tweaking settings in 
the ever-so-delicate 
Windows Registry. 
Sometimes, this type 
of hands-on trouble- 
shooting can cause even 
more problems, and sup- 
port representatives are 
well aware of this poten- 
tial predicament. As a re- 
sult, some companies will 
refuse to provide support 
for their products under 
certain conditions, espe- 
cially those in which you 
messed with things. Even 
if the changes couldn't 
possibly affect the prod- 
uct in question, some 
companies still take the 
we-don't-support-that- 
configuration route in 
order to decrease tech 
support time and sub- 
sequent costs. 

To be on the safe side, 
try not to make major 
changes to your com- 
puter while attempting 



to solve a problem unless 
you're intimately familiar 
with both the process and 
the expected outcome. If 
you plan to rely on tech 
support at any time in the 
future, it's usually best to 
call or email before you 
get yourself in deeper hot 
water. With that said, it 
does pay to read the 
product manual and the 
company's Web site to 
see what is or isn't cov- 
ered under that compa- 
ny's support policy. If a 
company claims it won't 
provide support for its 
product if you made even 
the most minor of system 
changes, such as changing 
your screen saver or a per- 
forming a similarly benign 
action, take note of what 
not to mention when you 
call. Although divulging 
information is almost al- 
ways key to a successful 
support call, you can 
usually work around 
extremely strict sup- 
port policies to get the 
help you need. I 



similar software, but even so, it's still 
possible that our findings are more 
than mere coincidence. After all, how 
coincidental is it that the two compa- 
nies earning the lowest grades in this 
category both develop CD-burning 
software? Ahead Software and Roxio 
were mediocre at best in our testing, 
with Roxio failing to solve either of 
our problems. 

Two other companies in this cate- 
gory, Intuit (developers of Quicken) 
and RealNetworks (developers of 
RealPlayer), responded to our phone 
calls and emails quickly, and although 
the RealNetworks support staff ade- 
quately solved our problems, the 
Intuit support staff didn't. 

Peripherals 

The support we received from pe- 
ripheral manufacturers was among the 
most polite, professional, and effective 
in our entire study. Considering that 
there's plenty that can go awry with 
printers, cameras, scanners, and sim- 
ilar devices that we use constantly, it's 
good to know that these companies 
appear to be on the right track when it 
comes to support. 

The best of the bunch here was 
Lexmark, which offered nearly flawless 
support for our technical mishaps. 
Epson wasn't far behind, although one 
of its representatives couldn't com- 
pletely solve one of our problems. The 
other companies in this group — 
Canon, Kodak, and Samsung — all 
fared similarly well. 

Even Your Problems Need Luck 

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, 
"Never confuse a single defeat with 
a final defeat." This holds particu- 
larly true in the tech support world, 
where we found that a company's 
poor support one day could morph 
into exceptional support the next. 
Depending on your problem, the 
time of day when you contact 
the company, and the representa- 
tive you reach, you could have vastly 



64 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



The Death Of Tech Support | 



differing support experiences for the 
same product. In any case, we like 
to see consistently successful sup- 
port, and if our tests with Adobe, 
Alienware, and Lexmark are any 
indication, that level of support is 
certainly attainable. 



Unless you built your PC from the 
silicon up, it's difficult to completely 
avoid tech support for the life of your 
computer and its programs. But be- 
cause our research suggests that you're 
more likely to receive better support 
for products such as peripherals and 



graphics software than you are for 
your Internet connection or antivirus 
software, we hope your problems fall 
within a more support-friendly area, if 
they must fall anywhere at all. II 

by Christian Perry 



Thp Thrh dinnnrt RonnH' f sr/1 


II1C ICi.ll juppuii i\cpu 


1 I VUI u 


\ A/ e P ut tne tecnn ' ca ' support 
V V of 28 companies to the test by 
selecting several companies in each 
of five major categories. Each com- 
pany received two separate phone 
calls or emails, with one requesting 
support for a simple problem and an- 
other requesting support for a more 
complex problem. For example, a 
simple problem could entail our in- 
ability to print from a program, and 
a more complex problem might in- 
volve constant system crashing. 

We graded each company on four 
criteria — Accessibility, Knowledge & 
Professionalism, Support Time, and 
Successful Solution — and compiled 
an overall grade from those criteria. 
Accessibility depended on our ability 
to easily find support contact infor- 
mation, and once we found that 
information, how long we waited 
to speak to representatives on the 
phone or receive personalized emails 
(not automated replies). Knowledge 
& Professionalism graded the repre- 
sentatives' knowledge of the product 
and related technology, willingness 
and ability to troubleshoot our prob- 
lems, and capacity for conducting 


Overall 
Grade 

System 
Manufacturers 


Accessibility 


Knowledge 
& Professionalism 


Support Time 


Successful 
Solution 


Alienware A 


B 


A 


B 


A 


Dell B 


A 


B 


C 


B 


Compaq C 


D 


B 


C 


B 


Gateway C- 


C 


C 


D 


C 


HP D 


B 


D 


C 


F 


ISPs 

AOL C 


A 


C 


C 


D 


Verizon C 


B 


C 


B 


D 


Comcast C 


B 


C 


D 


C 


MSN C- 


C 


D 


B 


F 


OSesfc 
Miscellaneous Software 










Red Hat A- 


C 


A 


A 


A 


SUSE B+ 


B 


B 


B 


A 


WinZip B+ 


A 


B 


B 


B 


Internet Security 










Systems B+ 


C 


A 


B 


A 


Microsoft B 


A 


B 


C 


B 


Zone Labs B 


B 


B 


C 


C 


McAfee C 


B 


B 


D 


D 


Symantec D 


D 


C 


A 


F 


Productivity & 
Multimedia Software 

Adobe A 


B 


A 


B 


A 


courteous, well-executed support 


Corel A- 


A 


A 


B 


B 


sessions. Support Time looked at the 


Real Networks B- 


B 


C 


C 


B 


length of time the representatives 
required to conduct the support 
sessions (for email support, we 
took into account reasonable delays 
for message exchange). Successful 
Solution judged the representatives' 
ability to solve our problems, with 
some leeway granted for information 
that helped the problem but didn't 
completely solve it. 


Intuit C 


A 


C 


D 


D 


Ahead Software C- 


C 


D 


C 


C 


Roxio D 


D 


C 


D 


F 


Peripherals 










Lexmark A 


B 


A 


A 


A 


Epson A- 


B 


A 


A 


B 


Canon B 


B 


C 


B 


A 


Kodak B 


A 


B 


C 


B 


Samsung B- 


C 


B 


B 


C 







Smart Computing / August 2004 65 



Get Better Support 



How To Make Tech Support 
Work For You, Not Against You 




During times when a ghost seems to be inside 
your computer wreaking havoc, it would seem 
appropriate to call Ghostbusters. But because 
these scientists and their Ecto Blasters exist 
only in the make-believe world of Hollywood, we must 
resort to the next-best option: tech support. Unfor- 
tunately, even though the Ghostbusters always seemed 
to solve everyone's slimy problems, support representa- 
tives don't always deliver spectacular results — if they 
deliver results at all. 

Because technical support is such a hit-or-miss affair, 
it pays to come prepared with plenty of information on 
both the problem and your system, which means you'll 
need to do a little legwork before the call. You can even 
turn seemingly doomed support calls into successes by 
understanding how call support centers work, although 
you might be surprised by what you read. So before you 
pick up the phone to ask for technical help, read on to 
learn how to get the best support possible. 

Take Care To Prepare 

In a perfect world, all of our hardware and software 
would include free lifetime telephone support, and when 
we place a call to a company's support center, it would 
know exactly what product model or version we're using 
and the exact configuration of our computers. Unfor- 
tunately, this isn't a perfect world, so you need to pre- 
pare not only for potential support costs but also for the 
likelihood that the support representative has no inkling 
of your configuration. 

Check for costs. Not all telephone support is free. In 
fact, an increasing number of companies are charging for 
any and all telephone support, so much that it's becoming 
tougher to place a support call without incurring a cost, 
whether that means you'll be paying for a long-distance 
telephone call, the support itself, or both. Many large 
companies, especially computer manufacturers, under- 
stand that support is a top priority for its customers, and 
they sometimes include support as part of an extended 
premium package. Before you place a support call, read 
the fine print included with your product documentation 
or on the company's Web site to see whether the support 
is free to anyone, is included in a support package that 
you may or may not have, or requires payment. 



The Death Of Tech Support | 



The payment structure some compa- 
nies use for their support services can 
be downright confusing, even after you 
read all of the fine print. For example, 
Microsoft offers two "incidents" and 
unlimited installation support at no 
charge (though the phone number for 
this support isn't toll-free). What's an 
incident? Microsoft defines it as a 
"single support issue," which is a 
"problem that cannot be broken down 
into subordinate issues." In other 
words, if the support representative de- 
termines that the problem involves 
other issues, they'll deal with the other 
issues as other incidents, and your free 
support leash will shorten in a hurry. 
After your free support options are 
spent, you'll need to pay $35 for each 
problem, but at least the phone number 
is toll-free for this option. 

Remember that even if the support is 
free but you're calling a long-distance 
number, a long hold time can easily 
equate to an expensive call. Other com- 
panies might charge by the minute, 
which also can mean big bucks if you're 
on the phone for a long period, whether 
that time is spent with the representa- 
tive or with sleep- inducing music. 

Know thy problem, know thy 
system. Before you make the call, you 
must embark on a fact-finding mission 
for details about the problem you're ex- 
periencing, the product's model or ver- 
sion, and your system configuration. By 
arming yourself with this information 
before you place the call, you can help 
the support rep properly diagnose your 
problem. If you don't have the informa- 
tion ready, the rep might ask you to lo- 
cate it while you're on the phone, and if 
you're paying for the call, you could be 
paying extra for steps you could've fin- 
ished before you even made the call. 

To get started, grab a pen and some 
paper on which you can jot down all of 
your information. Unless you plan on 
printing the information, don't type it 
into Notepad or another word pro- 
cessing program because you might 
need to close all your programs or re- 
boot your computer during the call. It's 
also a good idea to have some blank 



paper ready in case you need to take 
notes because even if the representative 
fixes your problem, you can often glean 
some good tips on related items during 
the process (that is, if you happened to 
reach a knowledgeable rep). 

Don't delay the process of docu- 
menting as much information as pos- 
sible on the problem itself because the 
longer you wait to do it, the more likely 
you'll forget details when you call. If 
you're receiving an error message while 
using Windows or other software, write 
down exactly what it says and when 
it appears. (You also could use your 
PRINT SCREEN key to take a screen 
shot of some error messages, paste the 




Next, gather details on the program 
or hardware, including your reg- 
istration number, license number, 
software version, model name and 
number, serial number, driver version, 
and any other related information you 
can find. The representative also 
might ask for a customer number or 
invoice number, depending on where 
you bought the item, along with any 
usernames and passwords, if applic- 
able. If you have trouble locating de- 
tails on your software or hardware, 
check the documentation, which 
might contain the information itself 
or tell you how to find it on the com- 
puter. If you need your PC's serial 



Even if all the cryptic codes and 
numbers in an error message seem 
inconsequential, write down the 
message exactly as it appears 
because those codes can mean 
plenty during a support call. 



graphic into your Paint application, and 
save it as a file.) It's important to write 
down everything that appears in the 
error message because even though 
long strings of code or similar data 
might appear nonsensical to you, they 
can make perfect sense to a support rep 
who's familiar with the product. 

If an error appears only when you 
perform a specific action, indicate that 
action, or if it seems to appear ran- 
domly, take note of what actions you 
were performing at these different 
times. Try to construct a step-by-step 
breakdown of what you were doing at 
the time to help the representative di- 
agnose the error. If you weren't doing 
anything, indicate what other pro- 
grams were running at the time the 
error message appeared. If the problem 
exists with a hardware device and 
you're not receiving an error message, 
it's still a good idea to write down all 
the software that was running when 
the problem occurred. If you per- 
formed any troubleshooting tech- 
niques, such as scanning your drive for 
errors, running a virus check, or re- 
booting, jot those down, too. 



number, check the label on the back 
or inside of the case. 

You also should write down your 
computer's general specifications, 
regardless of whether the problem 
appears to exist with hardware or soft- 
ware. Indicate the model of your 
motherboard and processor (include 
the processor's speed), the amount of 
system memory, the number and size 
of your PC's hard drives, as well as in- 
formation about any video, sound, and 
network cards. You can obtain some 
of this information, including your 
Windows version, by right- clicking My 
Computer and choosing Properties. 

Finally, back up any crucial files, in- 
cluding documents and email, to a CD 
or a spare hard drive before placing the 
call. Although tech support is designed 
to help users, occasionally the advice 
that reps give causes even more damage 
and results in destroyed or lost data. 
Don't take any chances with your data. 

Find the number. When dealing with 
companies that charge for their sup- 
port, it's usually easy to locate the 
number you need to call; you can typi- 
cally find it displayed on your product 



Smart Computing / August 2004 67 



documentation or on the manufac- 
turer's site in the support section. With 
other companies, especially those that 
claim to offer free phone support, it's 
not quite as easy to find a number, so 
you might need to dig deep on the com- 
pany's site or in the product manual. 

Many companies prefer that you use 
email or online forms to send your 
questions, and they'll list these as the 
primary options, with phone support 
info buried somewhere else. Other com- 
panies don't offer phone support, which 
leaves you with email or online forms. 
An increasing number of companies 
also offer live chat support, which can 
be as effective as phone support. 



Be A Smart Caller 

Some companies train support reps 
to keep calls as short as possible. In fact, 
the shorter the call, the better the rep 
appears to be as far as management is 
concerned because time equals money 
when it comes to support. Obviously, a 
rushed environment doesn't bode well 
for solving your problem, so it's impor- 
tant to try to stay on the phone until the 
rep fixes the problem. Even if you're 
calling a premium tech support service 
that charges by the minute, you should 
know how to handle the support pro- 
cess to ensure that the rep resolves your 
problem before hanging up. 



Poor Support Isn't A Dead-End 



Although the quality 
of technical sup- 
port isn't what it used 
to be, it's still effective 
enough that we don't 
run screaming from 
both our computers 
and the phone when we 
encounter trouble. But 
if you call for help even 
occasionally, you're 
bound to run into a rep- 
resentative that simply 
can't or won't help you. 
That doesn't mean you 
should live with the 
lousy support. 

One option is to try 
calling back at another 
time and possibly nab 
a different support rep. 
If there is a record of 
your previous call, the 
tech support staff might 
refuse to further address 
the problem, but you 
might get lucky and 
find a rep who's willing 
and able to fix it. Of 
course, if you have to 
pay for each support 
call, calling back isn't 
necessarily an affordable 



option, especially if your 
problem isn't major. If 
you don't want to pay 
again or deal with the 
possibility of another 
fruitless call, check online 
for a possible resolution. 
Our Smart Computing 
archives (http://www 
.smartcomputing.com) 
have years' worth of 
troubleshooting tips. 
Plus, you can visit the 
forums at high-traffic 
technical sites, such as 
Ars Technica (http:// 
arstechnica.infopop.net), 
AnandTech (http:// 
forums.anandtech.com), 
and Smart Computing's 
online Q&A Board, 
for loads of help from 
fellow users. 

If you feel that poor 
support deserves ade- 
quate feedback, either 
to help the company im- 
prove future efforts or to 
warn other consumers 
(or both), you have a few 
options. You can try to 
contact the company 
using an email address 



or telephone number 
intended for customer 
feedback, but you're 
more likely to see results 
if you dig around for a 
number that connects 
you to someone in man- 
agement. Alternately, you 
can submit a complaint 
about your experience 
at ResellerRatings.com 
(http://www.rese! ler 
ratings.com), which has 
1 18,000 reviews on nearly 
6,000 companies and is 
considered a primary go- 
to resource for potential 
buyers of computer 
products. If you do log 
a complaint here or on 
another Web site, make 
sure you stick with the 
facts and avoid libelous 
claims, both for your 
sake and those of other 
readers. Even we might 
be able to help. Consider 
contacting Smart 
Computing's Action 
Editor by email at 
actioneditor@smart 
computing.com or fax 
at (402) 479-2104. 



Support call centers vary in the ways 
they handle customers, but many op- 
erate similarly enough that you can 
figure out what to expect most of the 
time. If a support representative can't 
solve your problem within a reasonable 
amount of time, such as 10 minutes, he 
might use any of several tactics to either 
get you off the phone (with your 
problem still unresolved) or pass you 
on to someone else who may or may 
not be able to adequately help you. 

A common method used to dispense 
with calls revolves around the fine print 
included with product documentation. 
Because no manufacturers can reason- 
ably test their products using every 
known hardware and software combi- 
nation, many won't provide support for 
their own products if they're used with 
certain other products (or, in extreme 
cases, any other products). In the sup- 
port arena, this means that reps often 
tell customers that they can't provide 
support for particular configurations, 
even if it's a common configuration. 

Another tactic that reps use is 
punting (handing off calls to other 
reps). Although this can be helpful if 
you're actually transferred to a more 
knowledgeable rep, many times the 
other rep won't be able to solve your 
problem, either. Call centers often refer 
to this process as escalating your call to 
a higher-tiered support level, but some- 
times the next tier is no more adept 
than the previous one was. Of course, 
escalating your call means that you'll be 
on the phone longer; meanwhile, the 
actual call times of the different reps 
handling your call are just fractions of 
your total call time, which possibly re- 
flects well on them. However, don't as- 
sume that when you're transferred to 
someone else that the new rep won't be 
able to handle your problem. Even if 
the next person is at the same technical 
level as the last, this person might have 
experience dealing with the specific 
problem you're having. 

Although you can't always avoid 
these tactics, it's possible to complete a 
successful support call most of the time 
if you do it right. For starters, try to call 



68 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



The Death Of Tech Support | 



during periods when you're not likely 
to stay on hold for a long time. For 
most tech support centers, that means 
to avoid making your call on the week- 
ends, Mondays, and evenings and 
trying to call precisely when the call 
center opens in the morning. You 
might even find real-time information 
on the company's site that shows how 
busy the call center currently is, and if 
you find that it's busy at one time, 
check again later for a slower period. 

When you do reach someone, intro- 
duce yourself and calmly explain your 
problem as concisely as possible, even if 
it's seemingly a complex, confusing 
issue. From there, the rep can ask for 
more details to find out exactly when 
the problem is happening and why. Be 
prepared to supply all of the informa- 
tion you previously wrote down about 
the problem, the product itself, and 
your system, as all of it will help the rep 
zero in on the trouble. As the rep asks 
for more info, it's a good idea to men- 
tion any troubleshooting you already 
performed (as detailed on your notes) 
because you'll waste time if the rep tries 
to walk you through a procedure you 
already tried with no success. 

If you have one phone line and use a 
dial-up connection and the rep in- 
structs you to download a new driver or 
other utility, make sure you ask for a 
case number that the call center can ref- 
erence when you call back (because 
you'll need to hang up your phone to 
connect to the Internet). If you don't 
need to hang up to download anything, 
make sure you keep the rep on the 
phone while you download and install 
the driver or utility. 

Because you read Smart Computing, 
you already know a thing or two about 
computers. Don't be shocked or dis- 
couraged if it seems like you know 
more than the support rep because al- 
though you might have greater overall 
knowledge about computers, that rep 
might just know how to fix a problem 
you can't. At the same time, you can use 
your computing experience to evaluate 
the representative's advice before you 
use it, especially if the advice is drastic. 



Before You Make The Call 



I reparation is key to placing a successful tech support call, so we assembled 
a list of precall duties you should perform before picking up the phone. 



't 




Locate the 
support 
telephone 
number(s). 



?, 



Write down all 
other software 
running at the 
time the 
problem 
occurred. 











X 






Back up any 
important 
files, including 
documents 
and email 





Determine 
whether the call is 
free or requires 
payment. 



1... 

2... 
3 

If possible, con- 
struct a step-by- 
step breakdown of 
actions leading up 
to the problem. 



Illllllllll 



19JFT9995STR19C 

Gather details on 
problematic soft- 
ware or hardware, 
including registra- 
tion and/or serial 
numbers. 



Write down the specifics of 
the problem, error mes- 
sages, and attempted trou- 
bleshooting procedures. 



Collect system infor- 
mation, including the 
OS (operating system), 
processor type and 
speed, memory, and 
other hardware. 



€= 



Prepare a concise 
explanation to 
introduce the problem 
to the representative. 



Many customers complain that sup- 
port reps instruct them to reinstall 
Windows or reformat their hard drive if 
they can't figure out a solution, regard- 
less of how minor the problem is. Sure, 
doing so will probably solve the prob- 
lem, but it also will create a major 
headache for you as you start from 
scratch by moving all existing data off 
of your hard drive and reinstalling your 
OS (operating system) and apps. If 
you get advice to reinstall Windows or 
reformat your hard drive, consider 
checking other resources because you 
might be able to fix the problem with- 
out using extreme measures. (See our 



"Poor Support Isn't A Dead-End" 
sidebar for alternative resources.) 

Don't Give Up 

To help boost your chances of hang- 
ing up with a solution in hand, make 
the call when you're prepared and keep 
the rep on the phone until the problem 
is solved, even if that means you have to 
offer suggestions to spur more ideas. 
With some practice, you can almost 
guarantee success with just about every 
support call you make. II 

by Christian Perry 



Smart Computing / August 2004 69 



Your Best Bet 



Avoid Problems In The First Place 




You can deal with PC problems in one of two ways: 
Either react to them after they have already begun 
to wreak havoc with your system or prevent them 
from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, 
most computer users choose the former. As a result, they 
end up getting caught in the quagmire of automated calling 
systems, long wait times, and finger pointing that has come 
to characterize the computer industry's tech support ser- 
vices. That's why we heartily recommend dealing with 
problems before they strike. 

Research & Reputation 

The first step in avoiding tech support is to buy products 
that are unlikely to need it. Identify these products by con- 
ducting a little prepurchase research. Start by gathering 
general info about potential products. Read product re- 
views to determine which ones have earned the approval of 
computer experts. Ask sales reps at 
computer stores to identify programs 
and peripherals they have installed on 
their personal computers. Talk to 
friends and neighbors about their 
favorite software and hardware. Use 
the information you receive to com- 
pile a list of recommended products. 

Next, focus your research on par- 
ticular programs and peripherals. 
Visit the FAQs (frequently asked 
questions) and support areas of each 
product's Web site so that you can 
learn about its common problems 
and corresponding solutions. Pay 
particular attention to compatibility 
issues; you should avoid products 
known to conflict with the software 
and hardware that are already part of 
your system. You also should visit the 
Microsoft Help And Support site 
(http://support.microsoft.com) and 
search the Knowledge Base for articles 
about the products you're consid- 
ering. The articles will reveal known 
conflicts (if any) that exist between 
your version of Windows and the 
hardware or software in question. 



Finally, we strongly encourage you to 
purchase products from established 
companies with broad brand recogni- 
tion. Many of these companies have 
reputations to uphold and stockholders 
to satisfy. As a result, they're unlikely to 
release products that will cause serious 
problems with your PC. Moreover, 
these companies are likely to take pre- 
emptive measures to rectify post- release 
problems as soon as they are identified. 

Just as we encourage you to stick with 
products from recognized companies, 
we also discourage you from down- 
loading or purchasing products from 
companies with little or no name recog- 
nition. If you find an alluring product 
from an unrecognized manufacturer or 
developer, we suggest that you wait to 
download or purchase the product until 
it has been reviewed by several repu- 
table sources, such as our own Smart 
Computing (http://www.smartcom 
puting.com), as well as WinPlanet 
(http://cws.internet.com) and Locker- 
gnome (http://www.lockergnome.com) . 

Get Registered 

After purchasing and installing a 
product, it's imperative that you record 
your purchase with the manufacturer 
or developer by submitting a warranty 
card or registering it electronically. The 
registration process ensures that you'll 
receive relevant product news and up- 
dates as they become available. 

Many users skip the registration 
process because they fear it will lead to 
an increase in junk mail, telemarketing 
calls, and spam. In most cases, this fear 
is unfounded. The only thing you have 
to fear about the registration process is 
that by skipping it you could miss out 
on the vital news and updates you need 
to fix bugs, install enhancements, and 
avoid security threats. Reputable hard- 
ware manufacturers and software devel- 
opers want to protect the privacy rights 
of their existing customers and won't 
sell or share confidential information 
without the customer's permission. Just 
make sure you opt out of the so-called 
"special offers" when given the chance. 



The Death Of Tech Support | 



A Date With Updates 

Of course, the registration process is 
just a starting point. You also must keep 
your system current with all of the rele- 
vant Windows updates. Fortunately, 
you have a friend in the Windows 
Updates utility. Access the utility by vis- 
iting the Windows Update site (http:// 
windowsupdate.microsoft.com) . Click 
the Scan For Updates link and wait for 
Microsoft to report the updates your 
system is lacking. When the scan is 
complete, select the Critical Updates 
And Service Packs link. Scan the re- 
sulting list of updates to see what you're 
getting, click the Review And Install 
button and, if necessary, click the Install 
Now button. A Windows Update dialog 
box will display a pair of progress indi- 
cators. Restart your computer when the 
installation is complete. 

If that seems like too much effort, 
take advantage of the Automatic Up- 
dates feature in Windows Me/XP. (The 
utility is not available in Windows 98.) 
In WinMe, you can set it up by opening 
the Control Panel and double- clicking 
the Automatic Updates icon. In the re- 
sulting dialog box, select the Automat- 
ically Download Updates And Notify 
Me When They Are Ready To Be In- 
stalled option and click OK. Activate 
the feature in WinXP by opening the 
Control Panel and double- clicking the 
System icon (in the Performance And 
Maintenance category). Then, choose 
the Automatic Updates tab, make sure 
the Keep My Computer Up To Date 
option has a check mark next to it (if 
applicable), and select the Download 
The Updates Automatically And Notify 
Me When They Are Ready To Be In- 
stalled option. Click OK. 

Once activated, Automatic Updates 
will search for, retrieve, and install the 
latest Microsoft updates every 24 hours. 

(NOTE: You must install the WinXP 
Service Pack 1 before activating Auto- 
matic Updates in WinXP. You can down- 
load the service pack from the Windows 
XP Service Pack home page at http:/ /www 
.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/down 
loads/ servicepacks/sp 1 /default, asp. ) 



Take It Easy 

Your car won't last long if you drive 
recklessly, brake hard, and fail to per- 
form such routine tasks as changing its 
oil every few months. So, why is it a sur- 
prise that a PC — a mechanism as com- 
plex and sophisticated as a motor 
vehicle — won't last very long if you load 
it with buggy software and pack it full of 
conflicting hardware? 

Treat your PC gently if you want to 
avoid problems that come with exces- 
sive wear and tear. That means, among 
other things, limiting your hardware in- 
stallations and upgrades to those that 
are absolutely mandatory. You'll end up 
with driver conflicts, malfunctioning 
hardware, and error messages if you 
indiscriminately plug USB (Universal 
Serial Bus) devices, expansion cards, 
and storage drives into every available 
port, slot, and bay on your system. 




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Take the effort out of updating your 
system by activating the Automatic 
Updates feature in Windows Me/XP. 

Likewise, restrict software installa- 
tions to those that are absolutely neces- 
sary, such as an office suite, antivirus 
utility, firewall, and personal finance 
software. Not only that, you should 
avoid the vast majority of freeware, 
shareware, and beta software that 
comes your way. Many freeware and 
shareware products come loaded with 
adware (software designed to track 
Internet activity and display relevant 
pop-up ads) or spyware (software that 



surreptitiously installs itself for the pur- 
pose of tracking online behavior) and 
are often just plain buggy. Prerelease 
beta programs have a high propensity 
for causing trouble because their devel- 
opers haven't tested them adequately. 
Abstaining from these programs is a 
sure way to decrease the crashes, errors, 
and unexplained behaviors that cause 
users everywhere so much angst. 

Whatever hardware and software you 
choose to add to your system, take the 
time to reboot your computer between 
every installation. Hold off on adding 
more software or hardware for a couple 
of days or so, too. Doing so gives you a 
chance to work out kinks, download 
updates, and identify a problematic 
program or component before adding 
more to the mix. It also gives your 
system plenty of time to prove that it 
can support the extra appendage. 

Know Your Limits 

Another aspect of treating a PC 
gently involves respecting its limits. To 
do that, you must be aware of what its 
limits are. You should know the type of 
processor your system has, the amount 
of memory it has, what version of 
Windows is installed, and how much 
free space is currently available on the 
Windows drive (the hard drive on 
which Windows is installed). Keep 
these specifications in mind when shop- 
ping for hardware and software. Review 
the system recommendations listed on 
the box of each product you consider 
buying and avoid the products that de- 
mand more than your system is able to 
give. If your PC has 128MB of RAM, for 
instance, you should avoid installing 
programs that run best with 256MB of 
memory. To minimize lockups and 
crashes, always defer to system recom- 
mendations, which are higher — some- 
times much higher — than the listed 
system requirements. 

Preventative Maintenance 

We've said it before and we'll say it 
again: You must perform regular 



Smart Computing / August 2004 71 



system maintenance if you want to 
avoid problems. You need to scan for 
drive errors and viruses once per week, 
defragment the hard drive a couple of 
times per year, and delete unnecessary 
files and programs on an as-needed 
basis. Take advantage of Windows' 
built-in maintenance utilities for most 
of these tasks. For example, scan for 
drive errors by running the ScanDisk 
utility. Open My Computer, right-click 
the icon for the drive you want to scan, 
and select Properties. On the Tools tab, 
locate the Error- Checking Status (in 
Win98/Me) or Error-Checking (in 
WinXP) heading and click the Check 
Now button. Then, in the next dialog 
box, click the Start button. 

You can access Disk Defragmenter 
the same way. Locate the Defragmen- 
tation Status (in Win98/Me) or De- 
fragmentation (in WinXP) heading and 

Do's & Don'ts 



click the Defragment Now button. Disk 
Defragmenter will rearrange the data 
stored on the selected drive so that 
Windows can access it more quickly. 

The easiest way to eliminate unnec- 
essary files and programs is with the 
assistance of Disk Cleanup. Open the 
Start menu and click Programs (All 
Programs in WinXP), Accessories, 
System Tools, and Disk Cleanup. When 
the utility opens, it may ask you to 
select the drive you want to clean; 
choose a drive and click OK. It then will 
present a list of file categories. Review 
the categories, which include Temp- 
orary Internet Files and Downloaded 
Program Files among others, and select 
the ones you want to delete. Click OK. 

To remove unwanted programs, 
choose the More Options tab and 
click the Clean Up button listed under 
the Installed Programs heading. The 




Avoiding tech support is often a matter of practicing good computing habits. Make 
these habits part of your routine by following the do's and don'ts we list below. 



DO update your software regularly. 
Don t install software unless you absolutely need it. 

DO keep your antivirus utility up-to-date. 

Don t download freeware, shareware, and beta software 
unless it comes from a reputable developer. 



DO use the Shutdown menu to reboot your PC between software and 
hardware installations. 

Don t turn off your PC by pressing its power button or pulling the plug. 

DO perform system maintenance on a regular basis. 

Don t smoke, brush your cat, or leave the windows open in your office. 
Smoke particles, pet dander, and dust can clog up "*«mmmp 
the PC's cooling fan, causing your system to over- 
heat and spit out errors. 




- 



DO respect your PC's technical specifications by obeying 
software system recommendations (which are often 
higher than system requirements). 

Don t fill a hard drive to more than 90% of its capacity. Drive errors are 
more likely to happen when storage space is at a premium. 



Add/Remove Programs Properties (in 
Win98/Me) or Add Or Remove Pro- 
grams (in WinXP) utility will appear. 
After reviewing the list, highlight the 
programs you no longer use and click 
the Add/Remove (typically labeled as 
Remove or Change/Remove in WinXP) 
button to get rid of them. 

(NOTE: Never attempt to uninstall a 
program by deleting its folder from your 
hard drive; that's a sure way to end up in 
trouble. Instead, use the Windows unin- 
stall utility, as described above, or the pro- 
gram's own proprietary uninstall feature.) 

Refer to the users manual that came 
with your antivirus utility for instruc- 
tions about running a weekly virus 
scan. In addition, you should update 
your antivirus utility daily or whenever 
updates are available. 

It's Never Too Late 

Even under the best conditions, your 
computer will encounter the occasional 
error or crash. How you respond to 
these minor glitches often determines 
whether you will eventually need to call 
technical support. Start by taking note 
of what you were doing at or immedi- 
ately prior to the time you noticed the 
error message, crash, or peculiar be- 
havior. Did you recently change the 
system configuration by editing the user 
settings, for instance, or by removing an 
application you no longer needed? If so, 
you should restore your PC to its prior 
working condition and reevaluate the 
change. Or did you recently add a new 
piece of hardware or software to the 
system? If so, you should refer to the 
users manual for a quick fix or check 
the product's support site for recent up- 
dates that might resolve the situation. 

What if you didn't make any changes 
to your system? In that case, shut down 
your PC and let it rest for 10 seconds or 
so before starting it back up. Sometimes 
a brief break is all it takes to get your 
system running smoothly again. You 
certainly don't need a support techni- 
cian to tell you that. II 

by Jeff Dodd 



72 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 




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Nov. 20, 2002 BenQFP591 
Hardware, Peripherals 



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Enjoyment Matters 




Help 



Yourself 

Take Tech Support Into Your Own Hands 



An old joke involves a preacher on his 
knees in the midst of a torrential down- 
pour. Soon a man who is fleeing the area in a 
car approaches the preacher. "Hop in," the 
man says. "No thanks," the preacher replies, 
"God will save me." So the man drives away. 
As the water rises around him, the 
preacher is approached again, this time by a 
man in a boat. "Climb aboard," the sailor 
says. "No thanks," the preacher replies, "God 
will save me." The sailor shrugs and steers 
his boat toward higher ground. 

The rains continue and the waves become 
higher. A man in a helicopter spots the 
preacher in the water and drops a ladder to him. "Grab 
hold!" the pilot yells through the noise of the storm. Once 
again, the preacher replies, "No thanks. God will save me." 
Well, eventually the flood drowns the preacher, and he 
finds himself standing in front of God. "Why didn't you 
save me from the flood?" the man angrily asks God. "I 
tried," God says. "I sent a car, a boat, and a helicopter. 
What else did you want?" 

In the quest for technical support, many of us make the 
mistake of behaving like the preacher in this joke. We be- 
seech software developers and hardware manufacturers for 
assistance but refuse to take advantage of the countless self- 
help resources they put at our disposal. The fact is that 
computer users of the 21st century have no shortage of 
available support options. All we have to do is reach out 
and take advantage of them. 

Users Manual & Help Menu 

Reputable companies have made a practice of bundling 
basic help-yourself technical information with the products 
they sell. Hardware issues, for instance, are typically ad- 
dressed in the Troubleshooting or FAQs (frequently asked 
questions) section of a product's users manual. 

As for software, help is usually as close as the Fl key. 
Pressing Fl is the fastest way to access an active program's 
integrated support resources. Alternately, you can access 



the support resources through the Help 
menu on the program's toolbar. Either 
way, the resources typically consist of 
informative articles describing the pro- 
gram's various features and step-by- 
step guides outlining the methods for 
resolving common problems. 

Windows Help And Support 

Each Windows version comes bun- 
dled with its own collection of support 
resources. To access these resources, 
open the Start menu and click Help (in 
Windows 98/Me) or Help And Support 
(in Windows XP). The resulting dialog 
box provides access to an assortment of 
intuitive guides that can help you fix 
problems, perform basic OS (operating 
system) functions, run maintenance 
utilities, and access troubleshooters. 

Each troubleshooter is an on-screen 
interview of probing questions, mul- 
tiple-choice answers, and corresponding 
instructions that help you diagnose and 
resolve problems. Examples include the 
Display Troubleshooter, the Print 
Troubleshooter, and the Startup And 
Shutdown Troubleshooter. 

To view a list of troubleshooters in 
Win98, open the Contents tab of the 
Windows Help dialog box and click the 
Troubleshooting and Windows 98 
Troubleshooters links. No similar list 
exists in WinMe/XP. Microsoft chose to 
organize the support resources, in- 
cluding troubleshooters, by topic when 
it designed WinMe/XP. 

To access the Modem Trouble- 
shooter in WinXP, for instance, open 
the Help And Support Center, click the 



74 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



The Death Of Tech Support | 



Fixing A Problem link, and open 
the Networking Problems category. 
Acquaint yourself with Windows Help 
And Support (in WinMe) or the Help 
And Support Center (in WinXP) so that 
you know where to find relevant trou- 
bleshooters when you need them. 

Microsoft Help And Support 

The third place you should look for 
assistance when confronting a PC 
problem is the Microsoft Help And 
Support site (http://support.microsoft 
.com). This site contains a vast array of 




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self-help support materials for every 
program in Microsoft's current product 
catalog. Read FAQs, join a Microsoft 
support newsgroup, and contact cus- 
tomer service (for help with nontech- 
nical issues). The site also presents 
Microsoft's latest downloads and up- 
dates. These post-release add-ons de- 
liver fixes for security breaches, bugs, 
and compatibility conflicts. As such, 
they are crucial to maintaining a high 
level of performance in your Microsoft 
applications, including Windows. 

The most important component of 
the Microsoft Help And Support site is 
the Knowledge Base, a searchable data- 
base of support articles, each of which 
corresponds to a Microsoft product or 
family of products. You can define your 
search by several criteria, and Know- 
ledge Base presents a list of articles that 
pertain to the subject in question. 

For best results, take the time to read 
an article completely before launching 
into the prescribed fix. Many of the 



solutions involve advanced trou- 
bleshooting techniques (such as com- 
mand-line programming) that you may 
not feel comfortable performing. Don't 
try a solution if you fear that you won't 
be able to properly complete it. Other- 
wise, you risk creating even more prob- 
lems for your system. 

Developer Or Manufacturer Sites 

Not every PC problem is Microsoft's 
fault, so when you encounter one that 
involves a program or device from an- 
other company, you'll have to look else- 
where. A growing number of hardware 
manufacturers and software developers, 
including Corel, Dell, Sony, and 
Symantec, have created their own 
Knowledge Base-like online support 
structures to help users find solutions to 
problems caused by their products. 

Windows troubleshooters, such as Windows XP's 
Networking Troubleshooter, help you diagnose and 
resolve common problems by leading you through 
a simple question-and-answer process. 



When browsing a manufacturer's site 
or a developer's site for assistance, look 
for a link or button labeled Support. 
This has become the universal pointer 
to self-help materials. Once inside the 
Support area, you'll often find a host of 
driver and update downloads, FAQs, 
reference materials (including users 
manuals and installation guides), hints 
and tips, and solutions to common 
problems. Always download and install 
the latest product updates before un- 
dertaking a manual fix. 

Third-Party Support Sites 

A final resource for technical assis- 
tance is a third-party support site, such 
as Experts Exchange (http://www 
.experts-exchange.com), Computing 
.Net (http://www.computing.net), and 
our very own SmartComputing.com 
Q&A Boards (http://www.smartcom 
puting.com). These sites provide an 
open forum where you can post your 



technical quandaries. If you're lucky, 
other users who have encountered sim- 
ilar problems will share their detailed 
solutions with you (but it may take sev- 
eral days to get a response). Many sites 
catalog these online discussions in a 
searchable database so future visitors 
can benefit from the information. 

The success of a third-party support 
site depends on two things: the quality 
of the questions and the quality of the 
responses. The best queries are detailed 
and thorough. Be exact when de- 
scribing the contents of an error mes- 
sage, for instance, and bundle each 
question with relevant background in- 
formation, including technical specifi- 
cations and a description of recent 
changes to the system configuration. 
The best responses, of course, are those 
that are correct. You can increase the 
odds of getting a correct response by 
sticking with a reputable site that at- 
tracts a bevy of experienced com- 
puter users. You also may want to 
submit your question to multiple 
sites so that you can check the pro- 
posed solutions for discrepancies. 
In any case, proceed with caution 
when implementing the instructions 
you receive from a third-party site. Ask 
for clarification if you are confused by a 
suggested solution, and always back up 
your data before making any changes. 

Make It On Your Own 

You may feel a bit awkward the first 
time you use our support options to re- 
solve a technical issue on your own. 
That's expected. Self-help support op- 
tions take us out of our comfort zone 
and require us to claim responsibility 
for fixing our PC's problems. But once 
you get the hang of answering your own 
questions, you'll find that the do-it- 
yourself method is faster, more conve- 
nient, and more reliable than navigating 
an automated calling system, waiting on 
hold, and describing your problem to a 
technician who may or may not give 
you the runaround. II 

by Jeff Dodd 



Smart Computing / August 2004 75 



PC Project: 




A Good Front 




If you want to make 
a real impression 
on family members 
and co-workers, 
use a label maker 
application to 
create professional- 
quality disc labels 
and liner notes for 
your jewel cases. 



It's easier than ever to rip music and create compila- 
tions, make videos, and back up your important data 
to CD or DVD. The recordable drives are fast and the 
media is cheap. Just look around, and I bet you'll find 
dozens of homemade discs scattered about. But how in the 
world do you tell them apart? Indelible marker scrawls 
look awful, and sticky notes, well, aren't very sticky. If you 
want to make a real impression on family members and 
co-workers, use a label maker application to create profes- 
sional-quality disc labels and liner notes for your jewel 
cases. There are several respected products out there, but 
let's take a look at Roxio's Label Creator utility, part of its 
Easy Media Creator 7 digital media software suite. 



Getting Started 

One of the most powerful attributes 
of Roxio's Label Creator is its highly in- 
tegrated operation, which is capable of 
handling numerous layouts in the same 
project. Some labeling programs only let 
you design one label or insert at a time. 
But with Label Creator, you can simul- 
taneously create a label and insert (even 
multiple labels and liner notes), sharing 
themes, images, and text content among 
your selected items. This saves a lot of 
time, reduces errors, and helps achieve a 
uniform appearance between labels and 
liner notes. Label Creator supports CD 
and DVD labels, inserts, and booklets. 
For this project, I'm going to label an 
anniversary mix CD for my wife. 

Launch Label Creator and select your 
layouts. A default audio CD template 
appears, so I'll add a front insert. Click 
the Show/Hide tab, check the Front 
box, and then click OK. A default front 
insert tab appears alongside the label 
tab. Switch between layouts simply by 



clicking the respective tab. It's easy to 
expand the project by selecting other 
items from the Show/Hide tab (such as 
a rear insert), but let's just work with 
these two layout items. 

Select an optional template and 
theme. Label Creator offers templates 
for a variety of projects. There is also a 
library of themes with varied color 
and layout schemes. If you opt for an- 
other template or theme, your choice 
will apply to all of your selected lay- 
outs (such as label, front insert, rear 
insert, and so on). Let's keep this pro- 
ject simple and stick with the Audio 
Template using the Default Theme. 

Let's save the project at this point. I 
really haven't done anything yet, but it's 
a good time to at least name the project. 
Click File and Save Project and select a 
name for the project file (such as 
Anniversary Mix). As the project pro- 
gresses, save at any time by clicking File 
and Save Project. 

Let's choose the content for our label 
and insert. Label Creator works in 



76 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



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Roxio's Label Creator provides powerful timesaving tools to 
create complex and elegant disc labels and inserts. 



terms of Smart Objects. Rather than 
making image and text boxes by hand 
for each label or insert, I'll just tell 
Label Creator which common objects 
should be on each label and insert. 
Click Show/Hide Smart Objects. This 
opens a dialog box of available objects 
that you can add to (or omit from) the 
label's layout. I'm already pretty happy 
with the default layout, but I'd like to 
add a date, so just check the Date 
checkbox and click OK: The current 
date appears in a default location on 
the disc. Let's also add the date to the 
front insert. Just select the Front Insert 
tab, click Show/Hide Smart Objects, 
check the Date box, and click OK. 

Filling In The Blanks 

Now I need to fill in some content. 
Double-click the Artist Smart Object 
to edit the object. There are various 
artists in my anniversary mix, so I'll 
pick a creative title rather than a spe- 
cific artist for this project. I just type 
"From This Moment" (our wedding 
song) and click OK. Now double-click 
the Title Smart Object and edit a new 
title. I've been married five years, so 
I'll call the disc "Five Years Of Love." 
Don't gag — women live for this stuff. 
Click OK. To change the date (I'll in- 
sert my anniversary date instead), just 
double-click the date and select an- 
other date from the drop -down menu. 

The slick part about Smart Objects is 
that they are synchronized across each 



Apply TempMte Theme 






* 



label and insert layout in 
your project. When the 
user edits an object on 
one layout (such as the 
disc label layout), that 
change occurs on every 
other layout (such as the 
front insert layout) with 
the same Smart Object. 
Once you've changed the 
label, switch to the front 
insert by clicking its tab. 
See that the Artist, Title, 
and Date objects have au- 
tomatically changed to 

match the corresponding 

objects on the label. Don't 
forget to save the project as you go. 

Now I'll list the audio tracks in my 
table of contents. Each track has a title, 
artist, and time. Fortunately, the Track 
List is another Smart Object that will 
take all of this free-form in- 
formation. Double-click 
the Track List object. The 
editor opens and lets you 
enter information about 
each track. There's no need 
to number the tracks — the 
object will do that for you. 
The text flows along the 
disc's curve, so there's no 
need to worry about any 
text falling off the disc in 
the spindle area. Enter 
your tracks in the editor 
and click OK when you're 
done. If you make a mis- 
take, just return to the ed- 
itor and make any changes. 
Smart Objects go a long 
way toward simplifying 
layout design, but you may not like 
the default options for every Smart 
Object. For example, you may prefer 
different font styles and sizes for cer- 
tain projects. The default Arial font 
looks fine, but I'd like a stronger look 
for the Artist object. Just highlight the 
Artist object and select a new font 
from the drop-down menu. I chose 
Impact instead of Arial. Want the text 
a little larger? Just select a new font 
size from the drop-down menu. 
Finally, I want to de-emphasize the 



m) 




Apply to All Layouts 

OK Cancel 



Label Creator offers a 
library of useful templates 
and attractive themes 
that will jumpstart just 
about any project. 



Title object a little bit without making 
the text smaller, so I'll change the text 
color to a dark gray (rather than 
black). Highlight the Title object, 
click the Change Text Color button, 
and select another color from the 
available palette. Remember that 
changes to the font style, size, color, 
and other attributes do not transfer to 
other layouts in the project. For this 
project, I'll need to manually make 
the same changes to the Artist and 
Title on the front insert. 

Now it's time to select a new 
Content Illustration (the picture on 
the disc and front insert). The default 
shot of a reclining dude in his head- 
phones really doesn't scream romance 
to me, so I'll pick something a bit more 
appropriate for the occasion. Double- 
click the Content Illustration and 
Browse from a list of available images. 
I have a rose bouquet 
photo that would be per- 
fect, so I'll select it and 
click OK. The new image 
appears on the label and 
the front insert. 

The simple white back- 
ground is a little too plain 
for this project, so I'll select 
a new background image. 
Click Tools and select Edit 
Background. You can se- 
lect a solid color for the 
background, but I'm an 
old softie, so I'd prefer a 
wedding-related back- 
ground. Check the Use The 
Following Image As A 
Background Image check- 
box, click Browse, and nav- 
igate to your favorite photo. The Label 
Creator comes with a wealth of back- 
grounds, so I browsed to the back- 
ground library, selected the default 
wedding disc background, clicked 
Open, and selected OK to apply it to the 
layout. Because I didn't opt for a spe- 
cific theme when we started this project, 
the new background did not transfer 
over to the front insert layout, but it's 
easy to switch over to the front insert 
layout and repeat the process to apply 
the wedding background there, as well. 



Help 



Smart Computing / August 2004 77 



PC Project 



The project is looking nice, but it 
needs a couple of tweaks to put the fin- 
ishing touches on this masterpiece. 
Label Creator provides a selection of 
objects and tools that can further cus- 
tomize your layouts. The Add 
Object feature lets you put ad- 
ditional images, rectangles, cir- 
cles, lines, and text objects into 
the layout. A suite of alignment 
tools lets you perfectly position 
each object. I'll add a text mes- 
sage to the label. Click the Add 
Text Object button, and a new 
text box appears. Select the box 
and drag and resize it to your 
liking. If the box is small, select 
a smaller text size (and font 
style ). I'll double- click the box 
and enter my personal message. 

Printing & Labeling 

Once the project is complete, it's time 
to print the label and front insert and 
apply the adhesive label to the disc. 
Click Print Your Layouts to start the 
Print Wizard. Basic printer selection and 
setup is handled at the top, so select the 
correct printer. Now select the layouts to 
print. The Disc is selected by default, but 
I checked the Front box because I also 
wanted to print the front insert. If there 
were other layouts in the project, you 
could select them, too. Let's handle the 
Page Setup. I don't want to print a label 



Labels - 2 Up from the Current Paper 
Type drop-down menu. The Label 
Creator also provides horizontal and 
vertical corrections (if necessary) for 
exact alignment with the labels. 



Printing Directly To Disc 



Show.Hkle Smart Objects 



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Track List 

Disc Type 

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Background 

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Content Illustration 

Content Media Type Icon 

Artist 



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Configure your labels and print them to your 
favorite color inkjet printer. 

to plain paper, so I click the Page Setup 
button and select my NEATO CD 



78 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Use the Show/Hide Smart 
Objects dialog box to add 
or omit common Smart 
Objects from your layouts. 



Save money by 
printing plain paper 
test pages on your 
color printer in 
black-and-white 
mode (use an econ- 
omy or ink-saving 
mode if available). 
Black ink is a lot cheaper than color. 
Then, hold the test page up to a sunny 
window against a blank label sheet. This 
is a quick way to check the alignment 
without wasting an expensive label 
sheet. If the alignment is off, tweak it 
and try another test page. Repeat the 
process until the labels print exactly 
where you want them to. Enable the 
high-quality color mode to print the ac- 
tual labels. Be sure to let the ink com- 
pletely dry before trying to apply it to a 
disc. Otherwise, you risk ugly smudges. 
Cut out the front insert and slide it 
into your jewel case. Now it's time to 
apply the disc label. No matter how 
hard you try, centering the label and ap- 
plying it without bubbles or creases is 
harder than it looks. Tools such as the 
NEATO CD Label Applicator are often 
included with label kits and make per- 
fect centering a snap. Prevent the label 
from curling by placing the printed side 
down on a flat surface, and peel away 
the backing from the label. Put the label 
on the applicator printed side down 
(adhesive side up) — the label fits 
around a wide spindle. Put the disc 
above the label onto the narrow portion 
of the spindle. Now push the spindle 
down to move the disc into contact 
with the label. This should center the 
label and affix it to the disc without 
bubbles or creases. II 

by Stephen J. Bigelow 



If you create a large number of discs 
and need a more professional image 
(or just don't want the hassle of 
printed labels), opt for a direct-to-disc 
printer. Primera Technology 
(http://www.primera.com) produces a 
line of inkjet disc printers. Primera's 
$1,495 Signature IV can print in full 
color to 1,200 x 1,200 dpi (dots per 
inch) and print a basic disc in less 
than 30 seconds. When there is a 
volume of discs to print, Primera's 
$1,495 Composer XL 100 disc auto- 
loader automates volume printing with 
printers such as the Signature IV. Of 




Primera's Bravo II direct-to-disc inkjet 
printer can duplicate and print up to 50 
CDs/DVDs at a time. (Courtesy of Primera 
Technology, Inc.) 

course, Primera's $1,695 Bravo II com- 
bines 4,800dpi inkjet disc printing and 
automatic CD/DVD duplication (up to 
50 discs) in one standalone USB 
(Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 device. 

While some direct-to-disc printers 
employ dry thermal color printing, 
most use inkjet technology to paint 
on the disc surface. But this can pose 
several problems. First, discs must 
provide a clean printable surface. 
Manufacturer's logos, coloring, or 
other preexisting printing on the disc 
surface (even finger smudges) will ruin 
the inkjet image, so select completely 
blank discs. Second, ink may not readily 
dry on a plastic disc surface. You may 
need to allow several minutes for the 
ink to dry or select printable surface 
CDs or DVDs as recommended by the 
printer manufacturer. I 







Roxio PhotoSuite 5 



Quick Studies 



Knowing Your Options 



Image Processing 

Beginner 

5 for 

Win98/Me/NT 

4.0/2000/XP 



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Typically, we show you how to use Roxio 
PhotoSuite 5 to perform one task, such as or- 
ganizing photos into albums, creating video CDs, 
or touching up facial photos. Every once in a while, 
however, it's useful to step back a bit and take a 
look at the program as a whole. For example, 
maybe you don't want to be notified each time a 
collage is about to be flattened or you want 
PhotoSuite to be the program automatically associ- 
ated with some image files. So this month let's take 
a look at how you can cus- 
tomize the software so it best 
meets your needs. 

The Options dialog box 
lets you set your overall per- 
sonal preferences. To open 
the Options dialog box, se- 
lect Options from the File 
menu. The dialog box con- 
sists of eight sections: Main, 
File Locations, File Assoc- 
iations, Notifications, Slide 



;e the following method to 



irting PhotoSuite, if co 



The Options 
dialog box lets 
you customize 

the software 
so it works 

best for you. 



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Notifications 


Main 


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OK [ Cancel | | Apply Help 







Show, Edit, E-mail, and Video CD. On each tab, 
you simply select the desired preferences. Then, 
be sure to click Apply and click OK for the pref- 
erences to take effect. 

The Main tab is where you can set global prefer- 
ences — options that appear through the program. 
PhotoSuite has the ability to play sounds when you 
select various interface items, but by default this fea- 
ture is not enabled. Place a 
check mark in the box Play 



Rid yourself 

of unneeded 

warnings via the 

Notifications tab. 



PhotoSuite Sounds to enable 
it. Other options on this tab 
let you change the number of 
recently opened or saved files, 
hide or display the tips that 
appear when you hold the 
pointer over an item on the 
interface, change the method 
you use for transferring 
photos from a scanner, and 
check for updates online. 
The File Locations tab lets you specify where 
photos are saved. Unless you customized Photo- 
Suite during installation, files you work with are 
automatically saved on your hard drive in a loca- 
tion that probably looks like C:\DOCUMENTS 
AND SETTINGS\USER\MY DOCUMENTS\MY 
PICTURES. But what if you want to save the files 
you transfer from devices, for instance, to a 



different location? Highlight this file category and 
click the Modify button. The dialog box prompts 
you to browse your system. Locate the desired 
new location or folder, select it, and click OK to 
return to the Options dialog box. 

You can also use the Options dialog box to as- 
sociate commonly used image file formats with 
PhotoSuite. Let's say that when you download a 
JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) file 
from the Web or save it from an email, you usu- 
ally want to open it in PhotoSuite. On the File 
Associations tab, place a check mark in the JPG 
box and any other desired file formats. When you 
launch the file via Microsoft Explorer, PhotoSuite 
automatically launches and displays this file. 

In our opinion, if the Options dialog box could 
only have one tab, the Notifications tab would be 
it. After you've used the software for some time, 
notifications such as Internet Connection Is No 
Longer Required can be annoyances. Turn off 
PhotoSuite's warning messages by placing check 
marks in some or all of the Don't Remind, Don't 
Warn, and Don't Ask boxes. 

In recent columns on creating slideshows or 
video CDs, we touched a bit upon some of those 
options, so we'll skip discussion of the next tab, 
Slide Show, and the last tab, Video CD, here. But 
you can change options related to those two tasks 
in the Options dialog box. 

The Edit tab is where you can specify photo res- 
olution. Often, a photo you save on your hard 
drive will have an assigned resolution in dpi (dots 
per inch). But if the photograph doesn't have this 
data, you can specify the default resolution so that 
when you open the photograph in PhotoSuite, it 
appears in high resolution (600dpi), low resolution 
(72dpi), or somewhere between by clicking the ap- 
propriate radio button. If you want to change the 
default measurement unit from inches to centime- 
ters or pixels during photo editing, select the de- 
sired unit from the drop -down menu. 

If you send photos by email, you'll want to be- 
come familiar with the E-mail tab. If your ISP 
(Internet service provider) doesn't let you send 
messages more than, say, 1,024KB, take advantage 
of PhotoSuite's warning by placing a check mark 
in the Warn Me When My Total Attachment File 
Size Exceeds My E-mail Limit box. The E-mail tab 
also lets you specify photo dimensions. II 

by Heidi V.Anderson 



Smart Computing / August 2004 79 




Microsoft Word 2002 



Quick Studies 



Keep Track Of Changes, Part 2 



Word Processing 

Intermediate 

2002 for 

Win9x/Me/ 

NT 4.0/2000/XP 



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11 



Changed lines - 
Mark: 



tside border t | 



Determine how the Track Changes 

functions work with the Track 

Changes dialog box. 



Last month we talked about how to perform 
basic tasks for tracking changes within a doc- 
ument. In this article, we show you how to cus- 
tomize the process. Open a document in Word 
and click View, Toolbars, and Reviewing. Click 
Show and Options on the Reviewing Toolbar to 
bring up the Track Changes dialog box. 

Define how you want insertions and changes in 
formatting to appear in the Track Changes Options 
section. Insertions options are None, Color Only, 
Bold, Italic, Underline, and Double Underline. 
Deletions always display with a strikethrough. 

Color My World 

The Color section lets you determine what 
color your changes will be and also how you want 
to view changes other authors made. Use the first 
selection, with the two-colored box and the words 
"By Author," so that changes will show up on 
your computer according to the color setting on 
the reviewers' computers. So if 
the reviewer makes insertions, 
deletions, and formatting changes 
on the document in pink, the 
changes will show up in pink on 
your computer. You can readily 
tell who made what changes with 
this option as long as you assign 
everybody a different color. 

Click Tools, Protect Document, 
and Tracked Changes and enter a 
password if you want to limit re- 
viewers to using the tracking fea- 
ture rather than letting them make 
actual changes to the document. 

You can specify a single color 
for changes if you don't want to 
go the multicolored route. Choose 
a color from the Color drop -down menu in the 
Track Changes dialog box, and all changes will ap- 
pear on your PC in that color regardless of the 
color reviewers use. Changes on the reviewers' PCs 
will show colors according to the settings on their 
computers. Choose Auto in the Color drop-down 
menu if you want changes to appear according to 
the same settings as the text being changed. 

The Formatting option lets you set whether you 
want changes in formatting, such as italicizing or 
changing a font, to be marked. The options are 
the same as for Insertions. 



Up, Up & Away 

Balloons, which point out where users have 
made edits, appear by default in the Print Layout 
and Web Layout views. The Balloons and Printing 
(With Balloons) sections let you determine wheth- 
er and where balloons will appear, whether lines 
connect the balloons to the text, how wide the bal- 
loons are, and what the paper orientation will be. 

Check the Use Balloons In Print And Web 
Layout box if you want the balloons to appear. 
Selecting this box makes the rest of the balloon 
options available. 

The Preferred Width default for balloons is 2.5 
inches. Set whether you want the width expressed 
in inches or percent of the page in the Measure In 
drop-down menu. Word adjusts text width to ac- 
commodate the balloons. Setting a lower width will 
make the balloons narrower but deeper. You may 
want to play with balloon width until you get the 
right combination of text width and balloon width. 

Balloons appear by default on the right margin, 
but you can use the Margin drop-down box to set 
it to the left side. There is no way to set the balloons 
to always appear on the outside page margins of 
documents constructed of facing pages. 

By default, Word uses lines to connect the bal- 
loon to the changed text. You can uncheck this 
selection to eliminate the lines. 

Paper Orientation determines whether your 
printed copy is going to appear in the portrait or 
landscape configuration. It contains the Auto, 
Preserve, and Force Landscape options. Use 
Preserve to force Word to print in the orientation 
specified in the Page Setup dialog box. Use Force 
Landscape to print in the wide format despite what 
is specified in the Page Setup dialog box. Use Auto 
if you want to give Word the option of choosing 
between portrait and landscape orientation. 

The last section in the dialog box is Changed 
Lines. Settings here affect the line that appears in 
the margin when you print a document with 
changes showing. Click the drop -down box next to 
Mark to select from None, Left, Right, or Outside 
of the page. Outside works only if Mirror Margins 
is set in the Page Setup dialog box. Use the Color 
drop- down menu to specify the line color. 

Tracking changes can help you get a handle on 
changes you and other users make within a docu- 
ment, making a tough job just a tad easier. II 

By Tom Hancock 



80 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 




Print Shop 15 Deluxe 

Organize Your Projects < 



Quick Studies 



Desktop 
Publishing 



Intermediate 

15 for 

Win9x/Me/NT 

4.0/2000/XP 



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You will collect quite a few projects on your 
hard drive once you have used Print Shop 
Deluxe for a while. Print Shop anticipates the 
need for organization with features to help you 
store your projects so that they are logically 
grouped and easy to find. 

Most of the work we will do in this article 
revolves around the Project Gallery. Open it 
by starting Print Shop and clicking the Search 
Projects button on the left side of the Project 
Picker. You can also access the gallery from 
the Design Desk by clicking File and Advanced 
Project Search. 

The Project Gallery 
contains three sections. 
We are interested in 
the My Projects section 
for this article. This is 
where you can see all of 
the projects you have 
created and saved. 

Now let's create a 
project that we can 
save to the Project Gal- 
lery. Open the Project 
Picker, click Brochures, 
and click Next. Click 
Personalize A Quick- 
Start Layout and Next. 
Choose a theme and click Next. Select one of the 
layouts by clicking it and then click Finish. The 
project appears on the Design Desk. Make a 
change to the project, such as adding text or 
moving a graphic. (For our purposes, it doesn't 
matter what change you make.) 

Click File and Save As. You have the option of 
saving the file wherever you wish on your com- 
puter, just as you would with any type of file. 
Enter a name in the File Name box. There are ad- 
ditional options in the Project Gallery section at 
the bottom of the dialog box. Select the Add To 
Project Gallery checkbox. Click the Category 
drop -down menu and choose from the available 
categories. There will be only one category avail- 
able, Your Own Projects, unless you previously 
created others. Click Save. 

Now let's create a new category. There are two 
ways to do this: when you save the project and 
when you have the Project Gallery open. 

Create another new project using a QuickStart 
Layout. Make a change to the project (again, it 



The My Projects section in the Project Gallery 
holds your projects in categories that you define. 



doesn't matter what you do). Click File and then 
Save As. The Save As dialog box appears. Click 
New. The Add User Category dialog box appears. 
Enter the name of the category you want to create 
and click OK. Name the project and click Save. 
You've now saved your project in the category 
you just created. 

To create a new category with the Project 
Gallery open, click My Projects Click File and 
New Category. The Add User Category dialog box 
appears again, letting you create a new category. 
Enter the name and click OK. The new category 
appears in the Choose Project Category section. 

Move & Rename Files 

It's easy to copy or move a project from one cat- 
egory to another. Open the Project Gallery, click 
My Projects, and click a project once to select it. 
Copy the project to another category by pressing 
the CTRL key and clicking and dragging the se- 
lected project to a different category in the Choose 
Project Category box. You can also copy a project 
to a different category by selecting it and clicking 
Edit and Copy. Open the category where you want 
to copy the project and click Edit and Paste. 

Move a project to another category by clicking 
and dragging the selected project to a different 
category (press CTRL only when copying, not 
when moving). You can also move a project by 
cutting and pasting. Select the project and click 
Edit and Cut. Open the category where you want 
to copy the project and then click Edit and Paste. 

You can rename or delete a category in the 
Project Gallery. Select the category you want to 
rename or delete in the Choose Project Category 
box. Click Edit and Rename Category. The text of 
the category name becomes available for editing. 
To remove a category, click Edit and Delete 
Category. A warning will appear that asks you to 
confirm whether you want to delete the category. 
Print Shop will delete all of the projects in the 
category if you delete a category. They will also be 
deleted from the hard drive if you check the 
Delete Project Files From Disk box. 

Print Shop provides the means to create 
a wide array of projects, and with the tips we 
have provided, you'll be able to easily keep 
them organized. II 

By Tom Hancock 



Smart Computing / August 2004 81 




WordPerfect 10 



Add Flair To Graphics 



Quick Studies 



Office Suites 

Intermediate 

2002 for Win9x/ 
2000/Me/XP 



By default, graphics take up boring rectan- 
gular spaces in your documents. You don't 
have to settle for this standard: WordPerfect of- 
fers Border, Fill, and Wrap tools to help you add 
flair to graphics boxes. When your graphic or clip 
art is getting lost among the text, Borders and 
Fills help you set it apart. Wrap changes the way 
text appears around the graphics box. 

Before we jazz up the graphics box, you'll need 
to actually insert a graphic. For the examples 
below to work, it's best if you insert a graphic 
into a document that has some text. Otherwise, 
insert a graphic into a blank docu- 
ment and type some nonsense 
words to take up space. 



Available border styles 



□DDDDE 
DIDD 



□□" 



E3 



L 



Apply | Help | 



Borders 



The Box 

Border/Fill dialog 

box offers several 

ways to set your 

graphics apart 

from the text. 



To reveal the Graphics toolbar, 
click an image. Click the Border 
Style button, and WordPerfect 
displays the available borders. 
Click More on the bottom of the 
palette to open the Box Border/ 
Fill dialog box. You also can open 
this dialog box by right-clicking 
the graphic and choosing Border/Fill from the 
pop-up menu. 

To add a border, just click the style you want 
to use. If you're using the Border palette from 
the property bar, you can preview the style 
within the document itself by pointing at one 
style on the palette. Otherwise, using the Box 
Border/Fill dialog box, select from Available 
Border Styles and then click Color to choose a 
color for the border. 

With the Box Border/Fill dialog open, click the 
Advanced tab to see additional options; for ex- 
ample, you can round the corners of your 
graphics box just by checking the box labeled 
Rounded Corners. Another option involves 
changing border spacing. Border space is the area 
between the border and the text that surrounds 
the box and the area between the border and the 
box's contents. If you want more or less white 
space, choose a predefined spacing or use the ar- 
rows to achieve a specific measurement. 

The Shadow tab lets you add or change the di- 
rection of the graphic box's shadow. Click the 
one that suits or type a height and width into the 
appropriate fields. Click OK. 



Fill Patterns 

Sometimes borders aren't enough or appro- 
priate. In those instances, you may want to create 
a background, or fill pattern, for the graphics 
box. A background fills the box behind the 
image, essentially coloring in the white space that 
surrounds the image. 

Click the Fill tab in the Box Borders/Fill dialog 
box to see the options WordPerfect offers. Choose 
a pattern, select colors for the Foreground and 
Background, and click OK to apply. 

Wrap Text 

When you insert a graphic into a text docu- 
ment, WordPerfect automatically wraps the text 
around both sides of the graphics box. To change 
the way text wraps, select the image. Next, click 
the Wrap button on the property bar (the button 
is a triangle inside a box) or right- click the image 
and choose Wrap. WordPerfect offers five 
Wrapping Types. Square lines text up straight 
against the left and right edges of the box; with 
Contour, the text follows the contour of an image 
and eliminates excess white space and standard 
border lines. By choosing Neither, space on both 
sides of the box is left blank, and text does not 
flow around it but above and underneath it only. 
Behind Text lets the words flow through the 
graphics box, printing text directly over the 
image, as with a watermark. The final option, In 
Front Of Text, has the graphic on top of the text, 
which obscures it. 

After you select a Wrapping Type, you must 
choose from the Wrap Text Around Area op- 
tions. Left Side, Right Side, and Both Sides are 
self-explanatory. The remaining option, Largest 
Side, wraps the text along the side of the image 
with the longest dimension. When you have 
made your selections, click OK. 

Picture Perfect 

Graphics and clip art help break up text, but 
sometimes the breaks are a little jarring. With the 
Border, Fill, and Wrap tools, you should be able 
to find just the right flair to set your graphics off 
from the rest of the document. II 

By Anne Steyer Phelps 



82 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Microsoft Excel 2002 



Quick Studies 



Using Multiple Worksheets 



Spreadsheet 

Advanced 

2002 for 

Win9x/NT 

4.0/2000/XP 



Most Excel users never venture past the con- 
fines of a file's top worksheet. After all, who 
needs more than 65,536 rows and 256 columns? 

That feeling is understandable. Information on 
a single sheet can feel more manageable than data 
scattered across multiple pages. 

Yet, single-page Excel work, as comfortable as it 
may feel to beginners, is pretty limiting. It leads to 
a lot of scrolling and creates awkward overlaps of 
things such as source data and tables showing pos- 
sible scenarios. Placing information on various 
worksheets within a workbook file actually makes 
it easier to find. Putting records for multiple sales- 
people on separate worksheets within a single 
Excel file should make your work as easy as flip- 
ping through pages in a physical notebook. 



II] File Edit View Insert Format Tools Data Window Help 


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B C 


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14 






15 


Product Units 


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Widgets 1785 


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Tabs that you 

can rename or 

recolor at the 

bottom of the 

screen make it 

easy to jump 

among pieces of 

data stored on 

multiple 

worksheets. 



Worksheet Basics 

A workbook is what most 
people think of as a spread- 
sheet. Every Excel file is a 
workbook with three work- 
sheets by default and up to 
255 if you go crazy adding 
new ones. The sheets arrive 
with simple labels such as 
Sheet 1, but you can rename 
them by double- clicking the 
tabs with the names on them 
and typing new labels. 

To create a new work- 
sheet, choose Insert and 
Worksheet, and Excel will drop a new sheet in 
front of the one you're looking at. Move the sheet 
to another position by clicking its tab and dragging 
it. To copy an existing sheet, hold down the CTRL 
key as you click the sheet's tab and drag it to a spot 
where you want the new sheet to land. It will ap- 
pear with a name such as Bob Smith (2). You can 
copy a sheet into another workbook altogether by 
opening the workbooks in side-by-side windows 
and pressing CTRL as you drag the sheet's tab to 
the new workbook. 

Get organized with color-coded tabs. Right-click 
a tab, choose Tab Color, and select a new hue. 

Move among worksheets by clicking the tabs or 
pressing CTRL-PAGE DOWN to move to the 
worksheet to the right and CTRL-PAGE UP to 
move one to the left. To eliminate a sheet, click 
its tab and choose Edit and Delete Sheet. 



Add Data & Formulas 

Worksheets often require similar formatting, 
as in the above example where each sheet tracks 
the same categories of data for a different sales- 
person. By grouping sheets, you can edit one 
sheet and let Excel repeat the action on all the 
others. Let's say you need to list the names of 
your 20 products on each salesperson's work- 
sheet. Click the tab of the first sheet and then 
hold down the CTRL key while you click any 
others you want to select. 

Now as you add product names to the cells of 
one sheet, they'll automatically appear on all the 
others. The same thing happens if you change a 
cell's formatting, enter a new formula, or make 
other changes. To ungroup sheets, click a tab 
outside the group, or if you selected all the sheets, 
right- click a tab and choose Ungroup Sheets. 

After you've neatly layered data in different 
worksheets, you may wonder how to easily com- 
pare such things as each salesperson's bottom-line 
results. The solution is adjusting the Excel window 
to display multiple worksheets. Choose Window 
and then New Window. You probably won't no- 
tice the new window that opens because it opens 
to the same worksheet you were viewing. Note, 
though, that the Title Bar text changed from 
something like Sales Results to Sales Results: 2. To 
view both open windows, choose Window, 
Arrange, and select an option such as Horizontal 
or Vertical. Use each worksheet's tabs and scroll- 
bars to navigate to the information you need to 
see. You can open more windows by repeating the 
Window, New Window step. 

The worksheet excitement really kicks in when 
you pull information from various sheets to pro- 
duce bottom-line results. Here's a simple example: 
Click a cell on the sheet that will hold the summary 
and click the Standard Toolbar's AutoSum button. 
Now navigate to a different worksheet and click the 
cell holding one of the values you're including in 
your summary. Don't press ENTER: Just type a 
comma and then go to another worksheet and click 
another cell you want to go into the equation. Type 
another comma and so on until you select all the 
cells. When you finally press ENTER, the AutoSum 
function adds them all up, and you get the sum- 
mary information you need without turning a 
single page. II 

by Trevor Meers 



84 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 




Paint Shop Pro 8 

Use Layers To Create A Collage • • 



Quick Studies 



Image Processing 

Advanced 

8 for 

Win98SE/NT 

4.0/2000/Me/XP 



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Use layers to 

combine images 

into a collage. 



Last month we introduced you to the use of 
layers to add text to images and to make color 
and tonal changes. Using Paint Shop Pro's layers 
feature saves you time and effort by combining 
layers into one image while retaining the ability to 
make changes to each layer individually. Sounds a 
bit like a photographic collage, right? 

You got it. Although there are numerous other 
applications for layers, creating collages is an 
important one. We'll show you how to combine 
multiple photographs or pieces of photographs 
into one rich image. We'll do so by creating a col- 
lage from pictures we took at a birthday party. 

Collage Basics 

You have two primary background options for 
your collage: using an existing photograph or a 
blank slate. We'll start from scratch. Select New 
from the File menu. In the New 
Image dialog box, create a large 
enough image (we used 800 x 800 
pixels, but see what works best for 
you), make sure the Raster Back- 
ground radio button is selected, 
set the color depth to 16 million 
colors, and click OK. Make sure 
the Layer palette is displayed by 
going to the View menu, choos- 
ing Palettes, and selecting Layers. 

Select the images you're going 
to place on the canvas. Open the 
first photo you want to use. To select a section of 
this photo, click the Selection Tool in the Tools 
toolbar. We chose to use the standard geometric 
options (we chose Ellipse from the drop-down 
menu in the Tools Options palette), but you can 
also make selections using the Freehand tool or the 
Magic Wand tool. Whichever tool you use, how- 
ever, we recommend you experiment with the 
feather value. Feather is the width, in pixels, that a 
selection is faded around the edges. The higher the 
number, the softer the edges and the better the im- 
ages in your collage will blend together. If you want 
hard edges, keep the feather value set to 0. 

Copy your selection via the Edit menu's Copy 
command. Return to your canvas and choose Paste 
and Paste As New Layer from the Edit menu. This 
places the layer in the middle of your new image. 
Open another photo and repeat the process with a 
second selection. 



At this point, you have two images in your col- 
lage, and it's likely they're both in the middle of the 
canvas. One may even be completely obscuring the 
other. Here's where the Move tool comes in handy. 
Click the layer you wish to move and select the 
Move tool from the Tools toolbar. Click and drag 
in the layer to move the image layer to the desired 
position. Repeat this process — make selections, add 
them to the collage, and move them around — with 
as many image selections as you'd like. 

Fine-Tuning Collage Layers 

You now have all the elements of the collage in 
one place, but it's likely you'll want to work with 
them further. For instance, in our party collage, we 
wanted to shrink the size of one of the selections so 
the woman depicted was roughly the same size as 
the other people in the collage. With her layer se- 
lected, we went to the Image menu and chose 
Resize. We changed the dimensions of the layer so 
that it was 80% of the original, and we made sure 
the Resize All Layers box was not checked. We 
clicked OK, and the layer became smaller. 

Rotate layered images using a similar procedure. 
Select the layer, go to the Image menu, choose 
Rotate, and select Free Rotate. (If you choose ei- 
ther of the other rotation options, the entire con- 
tents of the collage rotates.) Use the radio buttons 
to select the direction and degrees, uncheck the All 
Layers checkbox, and click OK. 

Another process that will come in handy is 
knowing how to rearrange the stacking order of 
layers, that is, which layer appears on top, which is 
just below it, and so on. Within the Layer palette, 
click to highlight the desired layer — Raster 1, 
Raster 2, or any other layer, except for the back- 
ground layer — and drag it up or down to the new 
position. Can't remember which layer is Raster 3? 
Rename it something more memorable by right- 
clicking the layer and selecting Rename. 

Lastly, before you save your collage, keep in 
mind that some common file formats don't sup- 
port layered images. When you save a layered file, 
Paint Shop Pro may flatten the image and you will 
not be able to edit layers individually after that. 
While we typically recommend you save your work 
early and often, you may need to make saving your 
work the last step in creating your collage. II 

By Heidi V.Anderson 



Smart Computing / August 2004 85 



Quick Tips 

Secrets For Succeeding In Common Tasks 



»»»»#• 



r " ' " * * 



Video 



Outlook 2000 



Today's high-perfor- 
mance games and other 
applications often take 
advantage of acceleration 
techniques supported by 
the video card. However, 
video problems can some- 
times manifest themselves 
as stability and system crash 
issues. One quick way to 
test for video problems is 
to decrease the video 
acceleration. Right-click 
the Desktop, select Prop- 
erties, click the Settings 
tab, click Advanced, and 
select the Troubleshooting 
tab. Decrease the Hardware 
Acceleration slider one 
notch at a time and apply 
your changes. If the system 
stabilizes, you know that 
the video system is in- 
volved. Upgrade your 
video drivers (and mother- 
board AGP [Accelerated 
Graphics Port] drivers) 
and try increasing accelera- 
tion again. 




rhe change. 



■...■:■ 

Enable write cor 



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Decrease video acceleration to 
improve system stability and 
prevent excess crashing until you 
can install new drivers. 



Not getting replies to your 
important emails? It may be 
time to repeat the message. If 
you need to resend a message 
but don't want the hassle of 
retyping the entire message by 
hand, Outlook 2000 provides 
an easy solution. Simply open 
your Sent Items folder and lo- 
cate the message you want to 
resend. Double-click the mes- 
sage line to open the sent item 
in its own window. Now click 
Actions and Resend This 
Message. A duplicate of the 
message will appear in an- 
other window where you can 
make any changes to the text, 
subject, or recipients. Click 
Send when you're ready to 
send it again. This is particu- 
larly handy when the message 
is lengthy or the message had 
a large number of recipients. 

Windows Media Player 

Multimedia utilities such as 
Windows Media Player can 
play streaming media from 
resources across the Internet. 
Playback performance will 
depend on your connection 
speed — faster connections 
can play back better- quality 
images and music. Windows 
Media Player can automati- 
cally detect the connection 
speed, but detection is not 
always accurate. If you find 
that streaming playbacks are 
slow and choppy, the player 
may have improperly detected 
your connection speed. 
Set the speed manually by 
clicking Tools and Options. 
Select the Performance tab, 
click the Choose Connection 
Speed radio button, and select 
your real connection speed 



from the drop- down menu. 
Remember to click OK. 

Folders 

If those boring manila 
folder icons on your Desktop 
are too bland for your taste, 
go ahead and change them. 
Right- click a folder, select 
Properties, and click the 
Change Icon button on the 
Shortcut tab. Scroll through 
the available default icons on 
your system (or browse to 
other icons you've down- 
loaded from the Internet). 
Just highlight the new icon 
and click OK. 

Word2000 

Tired of that plain white 
background in your Word 
documents for the Web? 



: • ■ ■■- . . 



Normal view or Print Layout 
view). Use caution when se- 
lecting a working background 
for Web documents. Some 
effects can be very distracting 
and may even make the doc- 
ument difficult to read. 

Cp-RWs 

CD-RWs (CD-rewrite- 
ables) will typically offer 
about 550MB of space rather 
than the 650MB that we've 
grown accustomed to with 
CD-Rs (CD-recordables). If 
you want to fit additional 
files on the CD-RW, you may 
be able to apply compression 
to the disc through the RW 
utility. For example, Roxio's 
Drag-to-Disc utility supports 
compression. Just right- click 
the Drag-to-Disc icon on 
your Desktop and select 
Settings. Check the Turn On 
Compression box and click 
OK. Now your files will be 
compressed when writing to 
disc, though the amount of 
additional space may be lim- 
ited, as some files compress 
much better than others. 



When preparing Web documents, 
select complementary colors or 
textures for best impact. 

Spruce it up with a subtle 
color or texture. Open Word 
2000 and then click Format 
and Background. Select a new 
background color (to appear 
behind all of your text) or se- 
lect Fill Effects to choose a 
Gradient, Texture, Pattern, 
or Picture. Click OK to im- 
plement your changes. They 
will appear in your docu- 
ment's Web Layout view (not 
in other views such as the 



1 






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v Show an icon in the system tray 
r Display the * disc is inserted 
Keep in front of other windows 

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seek boxes 

OK | Cancel Help | 











Enable compression to fit 
additional content onto your 
CD-RWs (CD-rewriteables). 



86 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Keep in mind that com- 
pressed files may not be 
readable on PCs using other 
RW utilities. 

0utlook2000 

You can tailor the way 
that Microsoft Outlook 
checks for new messages. By 
default, Outlook checks for 
new emails every 10 min- 
utes. This is fairly often and 
may sometimes bog down 
other Internet applications. 
If you'd rather wait a bit 
longer between checks, click 
Tools and Options and se- 
lect the Mail Delivery tab. 
In the Check For New 
Messages Every XX Minutes 
line, enter a new delay (in 
minutes). For example, to 
check for new mail once an 
hour, just enter 60, click 
Apply, and click OK. If 
you'd prefer not to have 
Outlook automatically 
check for mail, just un- 
check the Check For New 
Messages Every XX Minutes 
box. Remember that auto- 
matically checking mail 
will send any messages in 
the Outbox. 

Internet Explorer 

Web browsers bring glob- 
al information and enter- 
tainment to Internet users 
everywhere, but there is 
substantial content that may 
be inappropriate for chil- 
dren. Internet Explorer pro- 
vides a Content Advisor 
feature that can restrict Web 
sites that include restricted 
content. Start Internet 
Explorer, click Tools, click 
Internet Options, click the 
Content tab, and select the 
Enable button in the Content 



Advisor area. Click each 
RSACi (Recreational Soft- 
ware Advisory Council on 
the Internet) entry (Lan- 
guage, Nudity, Sex, and 
Violence) and set the slider 
to specify each level that 



Ratings Approved Sites General Advanced 



jfl RSACi 



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Use the Content Advisor to set the 
level of Language, Nudity, Sex, and 
Violence that users are allowed to 
see in RSACi-compliant Web sites. 

users are allowed to see. Click 
Apply to save all of your set- 
tings. Now click the General 
tab and create a Supervisor 
password. Otherwise, another 
user can change the rating 
levels you've set or disable the 
Content Advisor entirely. 
Remember that the Content 
Advisor only works with 
Web sites that have regis- 
tered with the RSACi. It has 
no way to filter content on 
an unregistered Web site. 

Word2000 

Word provides a tracking 
feature that monitors and 
displays changes made to 
a document by various 
authors. This eases editing 
because you can quickly 
identify any changes. 
Simply enable tracking by 
double- clicking the TRK 
box in the bar below the 
document. Unfortunately, 



other individuals who work 
on the document can turn 
tracking off and accept or 
reject changes. However, an 
original author or editor can 
guard against unauthorized 
changes by protecting the 
document. Open the docu- 
ment you want to protect 
and click Tools and Protect 
Document. Select the feature 
to protect (such as Tracked 
Changes), enter a password, 
and click OK. Now no one 
else can disable tracking and 
make unauthorized changes 
to your document. 

QuickTime 6 

Movie players such as 
Apple's QuickTime 6 use 
RTSP (Real Time Streaming 
Protocol) to transfer infor- 
mation from the Internet to 
the player. However, many 
firewalls, especially corpo- 
rate firewalls, prohibit RTSP 
and other unusual transport 
protocols in an effort to im- 
prove network security. If 
you cannot use RTSP across 
your firewall, QuickTime 
lets you select an alternate 
transport protocol such as 
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer 
Protocol). So if you can ac- 
cess the Web, you can also 
receive streaming media. 
Open the QuickTime player 
and click Edit, Preferences, 
and QuickTime Preferences. 
Select Streaming Transport 
from the pull-down menu 
and click the Use HTTP 
radio button. Enter a new 
port ID (if you use anything 
other than the default Port 
80). Just close the dialog 
box to save your changes. 
Remember that HTTP is not 
as efficient as RTSP, so your 



movie may not be as smooth 
when you're using HTTP. 

Printers 

When you print a docu- 
ment, the printer doesn't 
print it immediately. Instead, 



';:r;?.;r-ng :'r.;-ri.'icr 



~3- 



P Use UDP, RTSP Port ID (• 554 
r 7070 



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Select HTTP (Hypertext Transfer 
Protocol) if your firewall 
prohibits the use of RTSP (Real 
Time Streaming Protocol). 

it is sent to a file on the hard 
drive (called the spooler) and 
printed from there. Spooling 
is a timesaving technique. 
Because even complex 
printing files can be saved on 
a hard drive faster than being 
printed, spooling a docu- 
ment lets the printing pro- 
gram continue working 
while printing continues from 
the spooling file in the back- 
ground. However, you can 
adjust spooling options. In 
WinXP, click Start, Control 
Panel (make sure you're in 
Category view), Printers And 
Other Hardware, and Printers 
And Faxes. Right-click your 
printer, select Properties, and 
select the Advanced tab. If 
you have trouble spooling a 
document, click the Print 
Directly To The Printer radio 
button and click Apply. II 

by Stephen J. Bigelow 



Smart Computing / August 2004 87 



jsmartcompuling.co 



You Have Questions . . . 

We Have Answers 



Do you have computing questions and don't know where to turn to find 
the answers? SmartComputing.com has the user-friendly tools you need to 
find real-world answers to your computing questions. 



Q 

A 



My scanner suddenly stopped working! 
What should I do? 

SmartComputing.com has archived hundreds of 
helpful troubleshooting tutorials to help you fix your 
ailing PC's headaches. Follow this easy 3-step search 
to find out how to alleviate your scanner woes. 




Find Answers 



Mv PsiCCPiM. Llb r5 »rv 

4j Search All Articles ► 

Reaa Hardware Keviews & 
Create Comparison Charts 



Click on Search All Articles located in the blue toolbar on the home page. 

StGp (Y) Choose to search Smart Computing, Computer Power User (CPU), PC 
Today, and CE Tips. 

Step (2) Select Troubleshooting And Problem Solving. 

Step (3) Enter Scanner Problems in the search box and click Search. 

By following these easy steps, here are just some of the results you will find: 

Tips To Help You Get The Picture 

— Reference Series, December, 2003, Vol. 7, Issue 4 

No computer/peripheral combination is entirely trouble-free. These tips can help 
you tackle common scanner installation issues, as well as some of the problems you 
may encounter when scanning images. 

Troubleshooting Peripheral Problems 

— Smart Computing: Smart Computing February, 2003, Vol. 14, Issue 2 
The potential for conflicts has increased as external peripherals (those outside of 
your computer's case) have multiplied. Most problems with external peripherals are 
easy to troubleshoot. We'll show you how and why. 

What To Do When Your Scanner Doesn't Get The Picture 

—Learning Series: Smart Computing March, 2003, Vol. 9, Issue 3 
We'll show you how to troubleshoot common scanner problems. 

Hundreds of articles just like these are only a click away. Try SmartComputing.com 's Search All 
Articles feature today to find the answers you've been searching for; it's as easy as 1 - 2 - 3! 



3-Step Detailed Search: 



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88 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Here's a list of this month's additional articles available to you online as a paid subscriber 
to Smart Computing, To view these articles, click the link in the Web-Only Articles area 
in the left column of the home page. (Only subscribers can read the complete article.) 



PageMaker 7 

Compile An Index, Part 2 




1 








(* Current page 




f* To next style < hange 




■ ' To next use of style: Body ten 


H 


C For next |l paragraphs 




C Suppress page range 





Level 1: 
Level 2: 
Level 3: 



|Needles 






F 3i^ 



I Import I 



Select a predefined 

topic for an index 

entry from the Select Topic dialog box. 



Roxio PhotoSuite 5 

Knowing Your Options 



PhotoSuite's Options dialog box lets you 
customize the software so that it works best 
for you. 



Site Guide Tips 



PDF Issues 

As a subscriber, you now 
have access to PDF versions 
of all Sandhills Publishing 
computer publications. 
This is a great way to down- 
load articles or issues and 
read or print them when 
you're offline. After logging 
in, click the My Special 
Features link. You'll then 
see a link called View PDF 
Issues. Two options are 
available: Best and Good. 
Click the link to download 
the PDF version of any pub- 
lication (Adobe Acrobat 5.0 
version or higher required 
for viewing). 



Hardware 



For all the latest product reviews, visit the Hardware Reviews 
& Comparison Charts area at SmartComputing.com 
(http://www.smartcomputing.com). 



Software 



Family & Education: Webster's Complete Multimedia 
Reference Library 2005 

Family & Education: Nova Development Art Explosion 
Scrapbook Factory Deluxe 2.0 



PC Operating Instructions 



Linux: Sharing Inboxes Between KMail & Evolution 

Given the wide variety of email clients in Linux, it would be nice if you 
could set up a single inbox for use with multiple email clients. This 
setup would let you view the same email messages regardless of which 
email client you use. This month, we'll show you how to share a single 
inbox between popular email clients Evolution and KMail. 

Windows: Create An Emergency Repair Disk 

You've backed up your computer, so you're all set in case of a system 
crash, right? But if your PC won't even boot, those backup diskettes 
won't do you much good. Take your recovery plan one step further 
and create an emergency repair disk. 



Quick Studies 



Email 

Archive Options In 
Microsoft Outlook 
2002 

HTML 

Anatomy Of The A 
Element 

Microsoft 
PowerPoint 2002 

Slide & Title Masters 

Browsers 

Use The A9 Search 
Toolbar With 
Internet Explorer 

Online 

Let Google Do The 
Walking 

Microsoft Works 
2002 

Create A Continuing 
Birthday Album 



Microsoft Access 
2002 

Learn About Many- 
To-Many 
Relationships 

Photoshop 

Use The Levels Tool 
To Adjust For Poor 
Lighting 

Security 

Understand & 
Configure Wi-Fi 
Protected Access 

PageMaker 7 

Compile An Index, 
Part 2 

Microsoft Money 
2004 Premium 

Making Plans For 
The Future 



Smart Computing / August 2004 89 



H^m ° 111 n 1 1 r o 111 p u t i n g . c o 111 



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Featured Articles 

Mstvb 2004 ' Vol. 15 t&$ue> 3 
Page(s) 62-65 in print issue 



WLAN Nuts & Bolts 

How To Set up A Wireless Network 



L 



Of all the reasons to choose a wireless network over a wired one, the 
most compelling has to be ease of installation. Because much of the 
wireless infrastructure exists in the atmosphere, you can set up a 
WLAN (wireless local-area network) without digging into your walls or 
stringing cables from one end of your home to the other, That means 
less mess, es; laiior. ess time, and less hassle. 



But donl take our word for it. The only way to experience the truly 
effortless setup of a WLAN is by doing it yourself Armed with a suite 

of networking components ant a confdent attitude, you can have a full-fledged WLAN up and 

running in less time than it takes to detail your car or cook a turkey. 



■ Be Prepared 

As easy as a WLAN deployment is, you still must prepare for it, Start by gathering the components 
you'll use to build the network. You'll need a WA P <: 'ire- ess ac :esE pent) ant at east one wireless 
network adapter. Ideally, the WAP will be integrated within a wiieless fateway'router see "Parts & 
Pieces" on page SB for our recommendations about buying wireless products) so that you can share 
Internet access with the other PCs on your network. As for the number of adapters you'll need, that 
depends on the number of computers lhat are part of the network. You should have one adapter for 
each computer, bu! ycu dc-n't leei a virtiess ataplerfcf the canr. jte: cuneitet to the WAP. On 
the other hand, if you must add a separate gateway because the WAP isn't integrated within your 
wireless gateway/router, then the WAP must plug into the extra gateway, and any computer 
>:. on reded 1] ti" e V AF (vie rhe qs:ev.-ay) -nust heve -. w ele ;s eda;:tei 



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Featured Articles 

March 2004 ■ Vol.15 Issue 3 

Pagefs) 62-65 in ptint issue 



d '■■■ 'h '-•■■' 



WLAN Nuts & Bolts 

How To Set up A Wireless Network 



L 



01 all IN reasons to choose a wireless network over a wired one, Itie 
most compelling lias to be ease of inslallation. Because much of (he 
■vie'e D-: iiri;s'iLclu:e e:;is:s ir t-ic olrnospheie you car sel i_p a 
WLAN (wireless local-ares network) without digging into your walls or 
stringing cables from one end of your home lo the drier. That means 
£■■:: ■ih-i-s l?-is late, qss lima, and less Inassla. 

Bu1 don't lake our word for il. The only way to experience, the truly 
effortless setup or a WLAN is by doing K yourself. Armed Wth a suite 
and a confident atii'tute. you can have a fail-fledged wiam up and 



running in less lime than il takes lo detail your car or cook a turkey. 



My Personal Library 



re. Compter Power Uaer. Vol. 4. Issued. March 2304 
QlA.Q)iWW rPfflwllw Vnt i Issiw3 hlamh Jfinj 



Mole. Quod info to share with user group. 

Computer Ppwpf Ugef. Vcl j 



Mote: Great CPU article. Added &G4U. 
Barit Dnoi, Cpmputo Pover U$er. Vol i , Issue 2, February y]Q4 
Nole: This is a very advanced article ■ have Jen look over it. 

J Articles Read Next week 
WLAN Huls & Bolts. Smart Comcutino. Vol 15. Issue 3. March 3004 

Mole: This is the info Bob wanted to learn more about. 
Art Online. Smart Gomputinq. Vol 15. Issue 3. March TOM 
Mole: Tons of great art site links in this article. 

s.PCTflriai/.Vol. 2, Issue 3. March 2004 



J Fun Stuff 

Nole: This is a cool article ■ Lie ^uie 



s 11, November 2001 



H»art:Phrrtirmtinr.fi.fl Smmt Crmmirinq Vol IS Issue 4 AnrilTfVIJ 
Pre ii rain Maria tier , FC li> ■ . . :. -':ich 2004 

Nole: This is the article yoc wanted for Program ors&nizaiion 



Wireless PDA Power. Smart Computing. Vol 15. Issue 3. March 2004 
Nole Read Ihi^ :nt cle co^rl 



it I Reorganize My Personal Library 



— I Ciaala A Hew Folder 



>■ Commuter Power Use,. Vol A Isw 3 March 3QM 

AthfjMCBd OU " ,■■.■,;-.■:.,. P, , wr 1 1 --..■ Vol i. Issue 3, March 200a 

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Optical Surgery 

Slicing Open Today's Optical Options For A Closer Look 



Optical media and hardware are so pervasive today 
that it's easy to take their technical brilliance for 
granted. Despite the simple-looking construction of CDs, 
DVDs, and the hardware that reads and burns them, there's some nifty 
technology behind the scenes that allows for all of that massive storage 
and lightning- fast read and write speeds. Let's take a look inside these 
everyday items to see what makes them tick. 



CD 

The CD core is a layer of polycarbonate plastic, which is 
covered with a layer of aluminum, followed by a protective 
layer of lacquer. A graphic layer of ink, which is what man- 
ufacturers print the disc's label on, makes up the CD's top 
layer. CDs printed using a high-volume, commercial 
process feature a series of stamped pits in the aluminum 
layer, which in turn create a series of bumps and flat areas 
readable by a CD player as data. 

CD-R 

Unlike commercially stamped CDs, the CD-R (or 
CD-recordable) features a layer of dye underneath the 
aluminum. When a laser writes on it, the dye layer trans- 
forms into a series of translucent and dark spots that be- 
haves similarly to the flat areas and bumps commercial CD 
stamping creates. Some CD-Rs (especially generic versions) 
further differ from commercially stamped CDs in that they 
don't include a graphic ink layer. 

CD-RW 

Whereas you can fill a CD-R only once, the CD-RW (CD- 
rewriteable) features technology that allows for erasing and 
rewriting. Instead of a dye layer beneath the aluminum, the 
CD-RW has a layer of phase-change material, or material 
that can exist in different states. In this case, the states are 
either crystalline, which is a highly reflective state, or amor- 
phous, which has low reflectivity. When a CD burner heats 
the layer from a crystalline state to an amorphous state, it 
can leave a series of nonreflective and dark spots on the 
CD-RW that a CD player can read as data. The burner can 
use a similar heating process (albeit at a lower tempera- 
ture) to change spots back to their crystalline state. 





-Aluminum 

■ Polycarbonate Plastic 




Graphic Ink Layer 

Aluminum 

Dye 

Polycarbonate Plastic 




Graphic Ink Layer 

Aluminum 

Phase-Change 
Material 

- Polycarbonate Plastic 



94 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



CD Reader 




Spinning CD 



Spinning CD 



To read the data on a CD, CD-R, or CD-RW, 
a CD player users a laser to read a circular data 
track that starts near the inner hole of the disc 
and extends outward toward the edge. As the 
disc spins, the laser moves in a straight line 
from the center of the disc outward. On com- 
mercially stamped CDs, light reflects back to- 
ward the laser assembly when the laser lands 
on a flat area, but no light reflects when the 
laser hits a bump. The CD player interprets 
each flat area as a 1 and each bump as a 0, 
and these ones and zeros represent the entire 
collection of data on the disc. When reading 
CD-Rs and CD-RWs, the player interprets the 
dark areas as zeros and the translucent — or 
nonreflecting — areas as ones. 



CD Burner 

Like a CD player, a CD burner can read CDs using a regular read laser that reflects light off the data pattern on discs. But 
it also includes a write laser that's powerful enough to alter the material on a CD-R or CD-RW. Just like the read laser, the 
write laser moves outward across the disc as the spinning assembly spins the disc at varying speeds to account for the 
increased data path diameter as the laser moves, preserving a consistent writing speed. The burner records the data by 
constantly enabling and disabling the laser to form a series of translucent and dark spots. 




DVD 

Although the DVD is the same size and thick- 
ness as a CD and features a similar spiral storage 
pattern, it packs much more data onto its disc 
by using a much tighter spiral and a smaller 
bump pattern. To further increase data 
storage, some DVDs have two data layers or 
even two readable sides with two layers on 
each. When a disc has two data layers, one data 
spiral can start at the outside of the disc and the 
next spiral can start at the inside to limit the laser's 
transition time between layers. The DVD player and DVD 
burner function almost the same as its CD counterparts, using lasers 
to read and burn series of bumps that represent the stored data. 




Recordable DVD 



Recordable DVD media functions much like recordable CD media, and while there's plenty of confusion about the 
varying types of recordable DVD formats, there aren't many differences among them. The DVD-R format lets you record 
once to each disc, as does the DVD+R format, but the DVD+R format doesn't require formatting before recording or 
finalizing after recording. DVD-RW allows rerecording of data on each disc, as does DVD+RW, but the latter format is 
somewhat more compatible with DVD players. DVD-RAM is also a rewriteable format, and while it allows reading and 
recording at the same time, it's less compatible than the other rewriteable formats. 



Smart Computing / August 2004 95 



Defensive Comput 



n g 



Hard Drive Backup 
& Restore Basics, Part 1 



This is the first of a two-part series on hard drive backup 
and restore basics. 
Once you have chosen a drive imaging application to 
back up your hard drive, three important questions remain: 

1. When should you back up your hard drive's system 
partition? 

2. What preparations should you make just prior to a backup? 

3. How do you recover from a computer 
disaster? 

This month, I will address the first 
question. For the sake of discussion, I am 
assuming that you have at least two parti- 
tions on your hard drive: a system parti- 
tion containing Windows and all your 
applications, and a data partition. This se- 
ries focuses on backing up and restoring 
the system partition because logical 
damage to the system partition is the most 
likely cause of a computer disaster. 

When To Back Up Your System Partition 

Ideally, you should back up your system partition every 
day. This is easy if you have a second local hard drive but may 
be impractical if you have to go through the slow, laborious 
process of backing up to CDs or DVDs. In this case, I recom- 
mend weekly backups. You can perform backups less fre- 
quently, but you'll have to expend more effort to bring your 
computer up to date after restoring your system partition. 

If you're not taking daily backups, keep a running log of 
changes you've made to your system. This way, if you have 
to restore from an older backup, you'll know what changes 
to reapply to bring your computer back up-to-date. 

In addition to these scheduled backups, you should back 
up your system just prior to making a high-risk change to 
your computing environment. (If possible, you should time 
high-risk changes to coincide with your scheduled backup.) 
A high-risk change is one that might precipitate a logical 
hard drive disaster, such as: 

• Installing a Microsoft Critical Update. Flawed critical 
updates have been known to cause computer disasters. 
Wait a few days before installing a new Microsoft Critical 
Update. Cruise the computer forums to see if the update 
is causing any problems. 

• Installing a new application. Any new application can 
conflict with other applications, drivers, or hardware. Or 
it may just be an ill-behaved application, and the best way 
to be completely rid of it is to restore your hard drive. 




(You could run the application's uninstall program, but 
these are notorious for leaving vestiges of the application 
behind in your Windows Registry.) 

Installing new hardware. New hardware installs new dri- 
vers that can potentially cause chaos with your system. 
Installing a new driver. Never update a device driver unless 
you're experiencing problems that the updated driver is pur- 
ported to fix. Although Windows XP has a 
driver rollback feature, it's a good idea to 
back up your system partition before up- 
dating a driver as an extra precaution. 

Finally, also back up your system parti- 
tion just after you perform certain up- 
dates. For example, back up your system 
just after renewing your antivirus software 
subscription. If you don't, and then have 
to restore your system partition from an 
older backup, your computer will not rec- 
ognize the renewed subscription, and you 
may have to renew and pay a second time. 

A Final Word 

If you can't back up your system daily, you should still 
perform a daily backup of all email- related information (ac- 
counts, message rules, address book, preferences, etc.) and 
browser bookmarks. Here's why: When you restore from a 
backup, you'll be automatically restoring your email and 
bookmarks from the date of that backup. Thus, you will lose 
any email information and bookmarks that have been 
changed or added since the backup. If you have a fresh 
backup of your email information and bookmarks, you can 
restore this information after you restore your system parti- 
tion. This will bring your email and browser bookmarks up- 
to-date. I use Express Assist (http://www.ajsystems.com 
/ea7.html), a utility that works with Outlook Express and 
Internet Explorer, to back up my email information and 
bookmarks. Another product, Eazy-Backup (http://www 
.ajsystems.com/ezb.html), works with other email clients, 
such as Microsoft Outlook and Eudora, and with other 
browsers, such as Netscape and Mozilla. II 

by Alan Luber 



Alan Luber is an author anc 
"PC Fear Factor: The Ultimt 
(Que Publishing), provides a 
and recovery. To learn more 



d computer expert. Hi 
ate PC Disaster Preve\ 



Hon Guide" 



'ery. 1 o learn more about the book or to comae 
Veh site at http://www.pcfearfiactor.com. 



96 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



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Tech Support • Error Messages 



Examining Errors 

Among the many letters we received this month were a few that dealt with 
Java, a platform-independent programming language developed by Sun 
Microsystems. Java problems are particularly relevant right now as 
Microsoft and Sun continue to deal with ongoing legal issues over use of the tech- 
nology. Visit Microsoft's Legal Newsroom at http://www.microsoft.com/press 
pass/legalnews.asp for more information about the case of Sun Microsystems Inc. v. 
Microsoft Corp. By the way, Java isn't the same as JavaScript. Java is a programming 
language, whereas JavaScript is a scripting language. Programming languages re- 
quire a special program called a compiler to translate the code into the binary-coded 
instructions that computers understand. Scripting languages, on the other hand, be- 
come translated in real-time by the same program that executes the code. 



E 






"Java Virtual Machine Launcher. 
| Could not find the main class. 
Program will exit." 

OK I 



The Problem: A Windows XP user receives a Java-related error message 
every time he starts his computer, but his system seems to work just fine 
after he closes the message. 

Error Message: "Java Virtual Machine Launcher. Could not find the main 
class. Program will exit." 



This error message points to a couple 
of potential problems, the first being 
that the PC's JVM (Java Virtual Ma- 
chine; the self-contained environment 
in which Java applets operate) is either 
damaged or nonexistent. You can get a 
reasonable assessment of the situation 
from the Java test site (http://www.java 
.com/en/download/help/testvm.jsp). 
This site determines whether a system 
has an installed JVM and if it's working 
properly. If the test indicates that your 
PC needs a new JVM, click the Get It 
Now button in the upper- right corner 
of the site. Follow the instructions to 
download and install the latest JVM 
from Sun and reboot your PC. 

You need to proceed in a different 
direction if the Java test site indicates 
that your PC has a working version of 
the JVM or if you continue to receive 



the error message after installing the 
latest JVM. The problem in this case is 
probably a conflict between an applica- 
tion in the Startup group and the JVM 
itself. To verify that this is the issue, 
open the Start menu, click Run, type 
msconfig in the field, and press ENTER. 
The System Configuration Utility will 
display. On the General tab, select the 
Selective Startup option and deselect 
Load Startup Items. Click OK to close 
the utility and reboot your computer. If 
Windows starts without producing the 
error message, the problem lies with an 
application in the Startup group. The 
only thing left to do is figure out which 
application is causing the problem. 

Return to the System Configuration 
Utility and choose the Startup tab to see 
a list of the various applications that 
load each time you boot the computer. 



Deselect all of the items except the one 
at the top of the list. Click OK and re- 
boot your PC. Look for the error mes- 
sage when Windows starts. If you don't 
see it, return to the System Configura- 
tion Utility and select a different app on 
the Startup tab. Repeat the procedure, 
isolating each of the applications in the 
Startup group until you identify the one 
that causes the error message. 

You then can return to the System 
Configuration Utility and select all of 
the apps listed on the Startup tab except 
the offending one. Click OK and reboot 
your PC. You'll be able to access the 
conflicting program after Windows 
starts, but it will no longer trigger an 
error each time you boot your PC. 

The Problem: Another user reports 
that he, too, receives a Java-related 
error message each time he boots 
his computer, but the error doesn't 
hamper his use of the computer. 

Error Message: " WJView Error. Could 
not execute main. The system 
cannot find the file specified." 

WJView.exe is an application that 
helps you view Java applets on your PC. 
Microsoft developed this program, and 
it comes bundled with recent Windows 
versions. The error is most likely the re- 
sult of a conflict between WJView and 
an app in the Startup group. The best 
bet is to disable references to WJView in 
the Startup group and remove refer- 
ences to WJView from the Registry. 
(NOTE: Whenever you need to make 
changes to the Registry, be cautious and 
back up your system first. One wrong 
move could leave your system inoperable.) 

Open the System Configuration 
Utility (see our previous answer for in- 
structions) and choose the Startup tab. 
Locate and deselect any references to 
WJView.exe from the list of apps. Click 
OK and reboot your PC. After it re- 
starts, open the Start menu, click Run, 
type regedit in the field, and press 
ENTER. In the Registry Editor, go to 
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFT- 
WARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\ 
CURRENTVERSION and select the 



98 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Tech Support • Error Messages 



Run key. Peruse the list of corre- 
sponding values for any that refer to 
WJView.exe. When you find one that 
does, right-click it and select Delete. 
Next, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ 
SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WIN- 
DOWS\CURRENTVERSION, select the 
Run key, and delete any corresponding 
values that refer to WJView.exe. Close 
the Registry Editor and reboot the PC. 
The error should be gone for good. 

The Problem: A Windows 2000 user 
reports that he receives an error 
message each time he tries to write 
a new email message in Outlook 
2002. The error indicates that he 
may have a virus. The user has 
scanned his system for viruses and 
found none. He wants to know why 
he is receiving this error message. 

Error Message: "A program is trying 
to access email addresses you have 
stored in Outlook. Do you want 
to allow this? If this is unexpected 
it may be a virus and you should 
choose 'No.'" 

Outlook 2002 ships with several em- 
bedded security features, including one 
that prevents third-party programs 
from accessing Outlook's Address Book 
or sending email without the user's ex- 
press permission. Microsoft added this 
feature in an attempt to control an 
emerging class of viruses that spread by 
commandeering the address books of 
email clients and sending themselves to 
every email address contained within 
them. This type of security feature is 
important because it stops viruses be- 
fore they have a chance to proliferate. 

Unfortunately, this particular Out- 
look feature prohibits legitimate third- 
party applications from accessing the 
Address Book and email program. In 
this case, our reader probably owns a 
third-party app that springs into action 
each time he launches a new email mes- 
sage. Outlook sees the flurry of activity 



and, fearing a virus, releases the afore- 
mentioned error message. 

One way to deal with this message is 
by clicking Yes each time the error oc- 
curs. Doing so temporarily overrides 
the security feature, thereby letting the 
reader write and send a message with- 
out further disruption. Another option 
is to uninstall or disable the third-party 
app responsible for triggering the error. 
(Microsoft provides no way to disable 
the security feature in Outlook 2002.) 

ICQ 2000 users, for instance, can 
eliminate the error by opening the 
Tools menu in ICQ and selecting 
Options; choosing the Other tab and 
clicking Advanced Options; and then 
clicking COM Add-ins and deselecting 
the ICQ Express option. (It's widely 
known that ICQ 2000 sets off this error 
message in Outlook 2002.) 

A final option is to download Express 
ClickYes, a free program designed to 
recognize this particular Outlook error 
message and close it by activating the 
Yes button for you. Visit http://www.ex 
press-soft.com/mailmate/clickyes.html 
and click the Download Your Free 
Copy Of Express ClickYes vl.O link. 
Follow the provided instructions to in- 
stall and configure the utility. 

The Problem: A user of WinXP 
Professional receives an error 
message each time he logs in to 
Outlook 2000. If he tries to log in 
a second time under the same 
account name, the error message 
doesn't appear. The situation is 
the same whether he logs in as an 
administrator or as a limited user. 
The reader tried to locate a solu- 
tion in the Microsoft Knowledge 
Base but was unable to find one. 

Error Message: "Microsoft Visual 
C++ Runtime Library. Runtime 
Error! Program: C:\PROGRA~1 \ 
MICROS~4\Office\OUTLOOK.EXE. 
Abnormal program termination." 



Kudos to our reader, who wisely con- 
sulted the Microsoft Knowledge Base 
(http://support.microsoft.com) before 
requesting outside help. As this month's 
Feature Package articles reveal, you are 
your own best source for technical as- 
sistance. Unfortunately, the Knowledge 
Base had no information about this 
particular problem. So what's next? 

The best plan is to assess the situation 
and apply a few basic troubleshooting 
techniques. In this case, we suggest that 
the reader attempt to repair or reinstall 
Outlook 2000 by inserting the Outlook 
2000 CD-ROM and following the in- 
structions that appear on-screen. Either 
procedure should fix problems with 
damaged code, data corruption, and 
other problems associated with the 
wear and tear of daily computing. 

If that doesn't work, the problem 
probably involves a compatibility con- 
flict between Microsoft Outlook 2000 
and another program. First, the reader 
should download and install the latest 
updates for Microsoft Outlook 2000 
and all other major system apps. If that 
fails to resolve the issue, he should 
begin to systematically uninstall apps 
that could possibly conflict with Out- 
look 2000. The reader should focus his 
attention on system utilities, including 
antivirus utilities and firewalls, that run 
in the background. By stripping his 
system back to the basics — and re- 
booting once after uninstalling each 
program — he should be able to pin- 
point the source of the conflict. 

After identifying the conflicting app, 
the reader should reinstall it. Doing so 
sometimes eliminates a conflict. If that 
doesn't work, he should contact the 
program's developer for a workaround 
solution (which may require upgrad- 
ing Outlook 2000). In a worst-case 
scenario, he'll have to make a tough de- 
cision about whether to keep Outlook 
2000 or the conflicting program. II 

by Jeff Dodd 



Have questions about an error message you've seen? Send us your message (errormessages@smartcomputing.com) and we'll try 

to decipher it. Tell us what version of Windows you're using, give the full text of the error message, and provide as many details 

in your explanation as possible. Volume prohibits individual replies. 



Smart Computing / August 2004 99 



Tech Support • Fast Fixes 



Fast Fixes 



F-Prot Antivirus Version 3.14e Update 

Update your version of F-Prot 
Antivirus for Windows. The 
update does a better job of scan- 
ning encrypted executables that 
may transmit inside password- 
protected ZIP files. Also, when 
users install the update, it applies 
more restrictive security settings to 
provide better protection. 

To install the update, type the 
URL (uniform resource locator) we 
listed below in the Address field of 
your browser window to access 
the Download Center/Home User 
Downloads section of Frisk Soft- 
ware International's site. Click the 
Download link that corresponds to 
your existing F-Prot installation. 
You will need to enter your F-Prot 
user information, and then the up- 
date file will download to your 
computer (remember where you 
save it). Double- click the file 
you just downloaded, and the 
wizard will step you through the 
update installation. ♦ 

http://www.f-prot.com/downloacl 
/home_user 

Legacy Family Tree 5.0 Update 

If you're building and maintaining 
your family tree using Legacy Family 
Tree 5.0 Standard or 5.0 Deluxe edi- 
tions, you may want to take advan- 
tage of the free 5.0 update. Millennia 
includes several fixes in this update, 
including printing format improve- 
ments and better data import and 
export functions. You'll also be able 
to chart your ancestry back as far as 
250 generations (if you have that 
much information, of course). 

To download the update, go to 
Millennia's site (using the URL we 



listed below) and scroll down to the 
area that requests your email ad- 
dress. Enter your address and click 
the Next Step button below it. On 
the following Web page, click either 
the main site or alternate site down- 
load button to begin the process. 
The next Web page that displays 
lets you download the update and 
install it from the downloaded file 
or install the update directly from 
the Web. Make your choice and 
follow the directions that appear on- 
screen. You will need to enter your 
software's serial number during the 
update process, so make sure you 
have it handy. ♦ 

http://Nvww.legacyfamilytree.com 
/downloadupdatcasp 

Lotus SmartSuite 9.6.1 Update 

The latest update to Lotus' 
SmartSuite version 9.6 fixes nu- 
merous bugs in various SmartSuite 
programs, including Word Pro, 
Lotus 1-2-3, Approach, and Free- 
lance Graphics. Much of the update 
is dedicated to making these applica- 
tions more interoperable with similar 
Microsoft applications. 

The update is free and available 
at the URL we listed below. Type 
9.6.1 in the first field, select Updates 
from the drop-down menu, and 
click Submit. On the following Web 
page, scroll down until you see the 
SmartSuite For Windows 9.6.1 
Update link. Click the link, read the 
instructions on the next Web page, 
scroll to the bottom of the page, and 
click the SS_Win_Rel_961.zip link 
to begin the download. Save the file 
to your computer's Desktop, finish 
the download process, and double- 
click the SS_Win_Rel_961.zip file 
to unzip it. When you double-click 



the SS_Win_Rel_961.exe file, the 
update wizard will walk you through 
the update process. ♦ 

http://www-1 .ibm.com/support/us 
/all_download_drivers.html 



Update Of The Month 

Quicken 2004 Release 5 Update 

Quicken 2004 users will want 
to take advantage of this free up- 
date. A problem with opening data 
files under certain conditions, as 
well as a problem that may occur 
when using scheduled transac- 
tions, are both items that Intuit 
fixes in this release. 

In addition to updated tax ex- 
emption calculations, this update 
also provides more flexibility in 
configuring calendar preferences 
and currency settings. Intuit also 
updated Quicken 2004's forms 
and reports, including those for 
tax rates, investment purposes, 
and missing checks. If you use 
Quicken 2004's online banking 
functions, you'll notice minor 
interface changes there, too. 

The easiest way to get the 
Release 5 Update is to use Quicken 
2004's One Step Update. (Intuit 
recommends that you complete 
all of its current Internet sessions, 
such as paying bills online or 
downloading transactions, before 
installing this update.) To open 
the One Step Update dialog box, 
launch your Quicken program, 
open its Online menu, and click 
One Step Update. Deselect all of 
the checkboxes in the dialog box 
and click the Update Now button; 
Quicken 2004 will download and 
install any available updates, in- 
cluding the Release 5 Update. ♦ 

http://www.intuit.com/support 

/quicken/updates/release_notes 

/2004_r5_notes.html 



100 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



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Tech Support • Q & A 




Get straight answers to your technical questions from Smart Computing. Send your questions, 

along with a phone and/or fax number, so we can call you if necessary, to: Smart Computing Q&A, 

P.O. Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501, or email us at q&a@smartcomputing.com. Please include all 

version numbers for the software about which you're inquiring, operating system information, 

and any relevant information about your system. (Volume prohibits individual replies.) 



Need help with your hardware or software? 
Looking for simple explanations on technical subjects? 
Send us your questions! 



I'm having problems with Internet 
Explorer and the home page it 
displays. Even when I select the Web 
page I want for my home page (on the General tab in 
the Internet Options dialog box), I see this when I log onto 
the Internet: res://mshp.dll/index.html#37049. How do I 
correct this problem? I want the home page I selected to 
appear every time I launch IE. 

A Consider yourself hijacked. The Mshp.dll file (as 
noted in res://mshp.dll/index.html#37049) is installed 
on your system by a program titled CWS (CoolWeb- 
Search), created by miscreants who want to steer you to 
their Web sites. CWS, which first appeared in 2003, inte- 
grates itself throughout your computer and can be quite 
difficult to remove. Renowned programs such as Ad- aware 
(http://www.lavasoftusa.com) and Spybot Search & 
Destroy (http://security.kolla.de) have had mixed results 
eliminating CWS due to the large number of variants 
lurking on the Internet. Fortunately, you can download a 
program, aptly named CWShredder, which can help. 

To download CWShredder, visit http://www.spyware 
info.eom/~merijn/cwschronicles.html#cwshredder. If 
CWS blocks your browser from visiting this Web page, 
try using this URL (uniform resource locator): http:// 
209.133.47.200/~merijn and click Downloads on the left 
side of the page. Many of the CWS variants will try to pre- 
vent you from reaching anti-spyware sites, so using the 
numeric IP (Internet Protocol) address will circumvent 
their efforts. Once you've successfully reached the 
site, download the latest version of CWShredder. If you 
have a particularly nasty strain of CWS, you may have to 
use the following URL to download CWShredder: 
http://209.133.47.200/~merijn/files/CWShredder.exe. 

After downloading CWShredder, double- click it to 
launch the program. After it removes CWS, you'll need 
to take steps to protect your system from becoming in- 
fected again. CWS takes advantage of vulnerabilities in 



Windows, so you should use Windows Update to 
download the proper updates. 

To use Windows Update, launch IE and click Windows 
Update from the Tools menu. If this is the first time you've 
visited Windows Update, it will prompt you to download 
a small program that scans your system to determine 
which updates it should recommend. Once the program 
finishes downloading, click Scan For Updates. After a few 
minutes, Windows Update will list a series of available up- 
dates, some of which it categorizes as Critical Updates And 
Service Packs. Click the Review And Install Updates link 
and then click Install Now. Depending on the updates you 
install, you may have to restart your computer afterward. 

If you have Windows XP or Windows Me, you can 
automate this process by configuring Windows Update 
so it runs according to your preferences. In WinXP, 
open the Start menu, right-click My Computer, and 
select Properties. Choose the Automatic Updates tab, 
select the Keep My Computer Up To Date checkbox 
(this checkbox isn't available on some WinXP systems), 
and select any of the three radio buttons below. 

The settings next to these radio buttons vary among 
systems, so select the one most appropriate for you. 
Some settings notify you when updates are available, 
some automatically download updates and let you set 
a schedule for installation, and others let you turn off 
the Automatic Updates feature. After you select a radio 
button, click Apply and close the dialog box. 

In WinMe, open the Control Panel (from the Start 
menu) and select the Automatic Updates icon. Choose 
the desired setting by selecting the appropriate radio 
button and click OK. 

Q Every time I use Internet Explorer, I end up with 
the Web address "www.find4u.net" as my home 
page. I thought this was the result of spyware, so I used 
Lavasoft's Ad-aware program to remove the spyware. 
However, I still get the same home page. In addition to 
my problem, Internet Explorer closes the window by 
itself. How can I fix this problem? 



102 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Tech Support • Q & A 



AFincUU is variously described as a browser hi- 
jacker, spyware, and scumware, depending on the 
Web site providing the description. Its authors, how- 
ever, describe Find4U as "... a Performance-Based 
Advertising Network that reaches millions of con- 
sumers daily, via our partnerships with top quality web 
sites" (at http://www.find4u.com). Fortunately, there 
are many Web sites and forums dedicated to describing 
the removal of Find4U. 

If the free version of Ad- aware doesn't work for you, 
several people writing in various online forums have re- 
ported success with the Ad-aware Plus version ($26.95; 
http://www.lavasoftusa.com) . 

PestPatrol is another commercial program with 
widely reported success at removing Find4U ($39.95; 
http://www.pestpatrol.com). The company, PestPatrol 
Inc., also offers a free manual removal procedure at 
http://www.pestpatrol.eom/PestInfo/f/find4u.asp, but 
we must warn you that it's complicated and involves ex- 
tensive use of the Registry Editor. 

Yet another program to try (again, with widely re- 
ported success) is the newest version of Spybot Search 
& Destroy (1.2), but we suggest that you download 
the most recent updates, as well (http: //www. safer- net 
working.org). Spybot S&D is free, but its author, 
Patrick Kolla, requests donations. 

If none of these solutions works for you, you can try 
analyzing your system using HijackThis (http://www 
.spychecker.com/program/hijackthis.html). It's a free 
tool that includes instructions on how to use its reports 
to find and correct problems in your system. 



unit's motherboard. USB ports that also carry power cost 
more. If the ability to run a USB -connected device that 
needs power from the front of your PC is important to 
you, it's a good idea to ask before you buy. 



Hardware 



^-Jl i g% The new SanDisk SmartMedia card 

f \£ reader/writer wouldn't work when I 
plugged it into the front USB 2.0 port on 
my Dell computer. San Disk's tech support department told 
me to plug the reader into a USB port on the back of the 
computer because there is more power in the rear ports, so I 
did and it worked. Can you explain why there is a difference 
between USB ports in the front and back of a computer? 

A USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports come in two flavors: 
those that carry both data and power and those that 
carry only data. It's the same issue with both original USB 
and newer USB 2.0 ports. For example, USB ports in 
high-end keyboards are often unpowered or provide only 
low power. You can run a battery-powered mouse from 
one but not a device that needs power (such as a video 
camera). It's more common to find a powered port in a 
monitor base or in a USB hub designed as a standalone de- 
vice. As to whether USB ports on the front of a computer 
are powered or not, it depends on the manufacturer of the 



u 



Windows 



^% I build a new computer for my 
^^ wife every three years. In the past, 
I've transferred email messages, the 
email program's settings, and its address book by hand. 
I know there has to be an easier way to do this. Currently, 
I need to transfer this data from a Windows 98 Second 
Edition system to a Windows XP Home Edition system. 
Could you tell me the easiest way to do this? 

A Microsoft has developed a tool that can help you 
make a smooth transition from one computer gener- 
ation to the next. Dubbed the Files And Settings Transfer 
Wizard, this tool can cut down on the amount of work 
you'll need to do to set up a new computer with the set- 
tings, preferences, and files that your wife uses. Microsoft 
designed this tool to work with its consumer Windows 
OSes (operating systems) from Win98 to WinXP. 

But before we explain how to use it, we must point out 
that this wizard isn't all-powerful or all-knowing, so don't 
assume that it can handle the settings for each and every 
application installed on your wife's old computer. You'll 
also need to install your applications on the new system be- 
cause even though the wizard transfers settings and files, it 
doesn't transfer the applications. In addition, the settings 
and preferences the wizard transfers are for Microsoft ap- 
plications. Therefore, if you're using a non-Microsoft email 
client or browser (or any other non-Microsoft app, for that 
matter), you'll need to manually transfer those settings. 

Next, you'll need to choose one of three ways to 
transfer the data from one computer to another. You can 
decide to store the information on removable media 
(such as CD-RWs [CD-rewriteables]) or use a serial cable 
(sometimes referred to as a "null modem" cable) or 
transfer the data via your home network. You didn't 
mention whether you had a home network, but we'll 
cover all three scenarios anyway. To use the wizard, you'll 
also need a blank 3.5-inch floppy diskette. 

Initiate the process on your WinXP PC. Open your Start 
menu and click All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, 
and Files And Settings Transfer Wizard. When you see the 
wizard's Welcome dialog box appear, click Next. Select New 
Computer and click Next. When the wizard asks if you have 
the WinXP CD, select I Want To Create A Wizard Disk In 
The Following Drive and click Next. 

Insert the diskette and click Next. When the wizard fin- 
ishes creating the Wizard Disk, it will instruct you to go to 
your Win98SE computer. Leave the wizard running on 



Smart Computing / August 2004 103 



Tech Support • Q & A 



your WinXP computer as you do so. At the Win98SE 
computer, insert the diskette in the diskette drive, click 
Run from the Start menu, type a:\FASTWiz in the field, 
and click OK. This will launch the wizard. 

At this point, you'll need to select a method for trans- 
ferring your files and settings. If you're using a serial 
cable, you'll need to connect both computers by 
attaching the serial cable to each computer's serial port. 
If you plan on using a home network, make sure each 
computer is properly configured to use the network. Or, 
if you're using removable media, be sure you have 
enough discs or storage capacity for all the files you want 
to transfer. Make the appropriate selection in the wizard 
(on your computer running Win98SE) and click Next. 

Now you have to decide what you want to transfer. 
You can transfer only the settings, only the files, or both 
the files and settings. There's also a fourth option that lets 
you specify particular settings and files for programs that 
aren't installed in the default locations. When you make 
your selection in the wizard running on the Win98SE 
computer, the wizard will display the types of data it will 
transfer. When you're comfortable with your selections, 
click Next to have the wizard start assembling the data. 

If you're using diskettes, CD-RWs, or other remov- 
able media, the wizard will prompt you to insert the 
media. Click OK after doing so. Depending on the 
amount of data you need to transfer, you may have to re- 
peat this step numerous times. When the wizard displays 
"Completing The Collection Phase," click Finish. Take 
the media you've just created to your WinXP computer. 

From the wizard running on your WinXP computer, 
click Next, select the appropriate drive for the removable 
media you're using, and click Next. Insert the media into 
the drive and click OK. If you have multiple diskettes or 
discs, the wizard will prompt you individually for each 
one. When it finishes transferring all the data, click 
Finish and restart your computer. Your settings and files 
should be available when your computer restarts. 

If you're using either the serial cable method or trans- 
ferring your data via a home network, the migration 
process is faster than it is when using removable media. 
We'll discuss the network method first. When you click 
Next (on your Win98SE computer) after selecting your 
files and settings, the wizard will prompt you for the pass- 
word on your WinXP computer. Enter your password 
and click OK. The wizard will automatically transfer the 
settings over the network to your WinXP computer. 
When the wizard finishes, click Finish on both your 
Win98SE computer and your WinXP computer. Restart 
your WinXP computer to implement the changes. 

Using a serial cable is slightly different than using a 
network for transferring your data. When you select the 
Direct Cable option for your transfer method, you'll need 
to click Autodetect on both wizards (running on your 



Win98SE and WinXP computers) to configure the serial 
port settings. Once the wizard has successfully established 
a connection between the two computers, it will begin 
transferring your files and settings. When it finishes, 
restart your WinXP computer to implement the new set- 
tings. If you've followed our steps, the majority of your 
files and settings (for Microsoft applications, that is) 
should transfer to your wife's new computer. 

Ql'm using the WinXP Home Edition, and I'd like to 
keep it up-to-date. However, because of my very slow 
Internet connection (old phone lines), I haven't been able 
to download all of Microsoft's updates for WinXP (some 
would take forever to download). Is there a CD available 
with the current updates (especially the critical security 
updates) that I can purchase and use to update WinXP? 

A Yes, there is a CD you can use, and the best news 
is that it's free. To order it, visit http://www.mkro 
soft.com/security/protect/cd/order. asp or call (866) 727- 
2338. According to a company spokesperson, Microsoft 
released the WSUCD (Windows Security Update CD) in 
February 2004. But because the CD offers only critical 
updates through Oct. 15, 2003, Microsoft continues to 
recommend that people visit its Windows Update site 
(http://www.windowsupdate.com) to obtain the most 
recent updates for their Windows PCs. 

In addition, Microsoft is currently testing WinXP 
Service Pack 2, which will include the Windows 
Security Center, an updated firewall, and a pop-up 
blocking tool. SP2 may be ready by the time you read 
this; otherwise, it should be available soon. 

Ql am running WinXP Professional on both my notebook 
and desktop computers. My desktop computer has a 
Pentium 4 with 1GB of RAM, and I maintain the desktop PC 
on a daily basis specific to running anti-spyware, utilities, Disk 
Defragmenter, and an antivirus app, so I know I have a "clean" 
machine. Whenever I shut down the desktop PC, it takes a full 
78 seconds to completely turn off. My notebook, which has al- 
most the same programs on it, turns off very quickly. Is there a 
reason why my desktop computer takes so long to shut down? 

A If you analyze the two computers' startup times, you 
may discover the same thing: Your desktop PC may 
take longer to start than your notebook does. Startup and 
shutdown times are often related issues. Also, if your 
desktop system is part of a network and/or has a major 
server role, it will take longer to shut down than your 
notebook. The same is true if you've enabled file and 
printer sharing. Nevertheless, we'll address a few items 
that might speed up your shutdown process. 

Don't have WinXP clear your paging file at shutdown. 
For security reasons, you may have set WinXP to clear 



104 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Tech Support • Q & A 



your paging file (Pagefile.sys) of its contents whenever 
you shut down your computer. Your computer uses the 
paging file to store temporary files and data, but when 
your system shuts down, the information, such as unen- 
crypted passwords, may stay in the file. Some people 
prefer to have the system clear the paging file at shut- 
down; however, clearing the paging file can significantly 
slow down the shutdown process. 

If you feel comfortable editing the Registry — and if you 
backed up your Registry and know how to restore it if 
things go wrong, which is crucial — you can configure 
WinXP so that it shuts down without clearing your paging 
file. To open the Registry Editor, click Run from the Start 
menu, type regedit in the field, and press ENTER. In the 
left pane, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ 
SYSTEM\CURRENTCONTROLSET\CONTROL\SES- 
SION MANAGER\MEMORY MANAGEMENT. In the 
right pane, find and right-click ClearPageFileAtShutdown, 
select Modify from the context menu, and then change the 
Value Data field to (zero). Click OK, close the Registry 
Editor, and restart your computer. Whenever you shut 
down WinXP from now on, the system won't clear your 
paging file, so you should be able to shut down faster. 

Close services more quickly. Another change you could 
make in the Registry Editor pertains to services. Go to 
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CURRENTCON- 
TROLSET\CONTROL, right-click WaitToKillService 
Timeout in the right pane, select Modify from the context 
menu, and then change the Value Data field from the de- 
fault 20000 to a value lower than 2000. Various folks re- 
port optimum performance with settings of 100 to 400. 
However, please note that Windows isn't entirely idle 
during this apparent "timeout" — it's also closing your hard 
drive volumes properly. In a system with only one or a few 
drive letters (for example, G, D:, E:, and so on), you may 
not encounter a problem with the 400ms (millisecond) 
setting. But one of our systems goes all the way to drive S: 
and 400ms wasn't enough time to complete the task prop- 
erly. The time we gained in shutdown was more than lost 
when Windows wanted to check the last three drive vol- 
umes for consistency at startup. You may need to try var- 
ious values until you can find the best one for your system. 
Once you've entered a new value, click OK, close the 
Registry Editor, and reboot the system to test it. Repeat 
until you find your optimum setting. 

Turn off unnecessary services. Another way to reduce 
the amount of time it takes to close a service is not to start 
it at all. The added bonus to tweaking your services envi- 
ronment is that in addition to making your system shut 
down faster, your system's startup also will become 
quicker because these services take time to load. 

Learning which services you can safely eliminate is a 
slow but rewarding process. Start by opening the Services 
management console. From the Start menu, click Control 



Panel, click Administrative Tools (Performance And 
Maintenance category), and double-click Services. The 
services that list Automatic under the Startup Type 
column are the ones that start each time you start 
Windows. Most of the services listed will have a descrip- 
tion next to them, while others are obvious. 

For example, on one of our systems, an item listed 
with the uninformative name SAVscan has a descrip- 
tion that reads, "Handles Norton Antivirus Auto- 
Protect Archive Scanning," whereas another service 
without a description simply reads, "WinFax PRO." 
Both services start automatically, and it's unlikely we'll 
turn either of them off; however, we might want to see 
what happens when we stop Routing And Remote 
Access from loading automatically. The Services man- 
agement console describes Routing And Remote Access 
as "Offers routing services to businesses in local area 
and wide area network environments," and we don't 
think we'll need that type of service on a daily basis. 

To change how a service starts, right- click the service 
name, choose Properties from the context menu, open 
the Startup Type drop-down menu, and choose Auto- 
matic, Manual, or Disable. To stop a service that has 
already started, just right- click the service and select Stop 
from the context menu. 

Take several days to fine-tune your elimination 
process. If your system stops offering you a service you 
need (for example, the Still Image Service affects how 
scanners and other digital- imaging devices perform), you 
can simply restore it by changing the Startup Type back to 
the Automatic setting. 



Software 



#% I downloaded the Mozilla 1.6 Web 
%^ browser and was generally pleased 

with its performance, but I couldn't print any Adobe 

Acrobat documents. Any suggestions? 

A We've done a fairly exhaustive search of the support 
forums accessible at and through Mozilla's Web site 
(http://www.mozilla.org) but were unable to find any other 
users complaining of an inability to print from the Acrobat 
program. There are suggestions about how to enable and 
disable the display of Acrobat PDF (Portable Document 
Format) documents in the Mozilla browser's window in- 
stead of using Acrobat's window, but none of the reasons 
for doing one or the other has anything to do with printing. 
Our experience with Acrobat Reader over the years in- 
dicates that it sometimes doesn't cooperate if you install it 
before you install your browser. So, our suggestion is to 
uninstall Acrobat Reader and then reinstall its most recent 
version from Adobe's Web site (http://www.adobe.com; 
click the Get Adobe Reader button). 



Smart Computing / August 2004 105 



Tech Support • FAQ 




pa ^ H IVe heard some conflicting stories about 
l/^^£a the amount of wireless range that's available 
indoors. What kind of range should I expect, and what 
factors affect wireless range indoors? 

It's easy to understand why you hear so many contra- 
dictions; several physical factors affect the amount of wire- 
less range you can expect indoors. Although most wireless 
devices promise ranges from 100 to 150 feet indoors, their 
weak radio signals are blocked and/or deflected by walls, 
doors, partitions, leaded glass, concrete, water, and other 
objects. Practical ranges will usually be somewhat less — 
perhaps 50 to 100 feet — depending on the layout of the 
building in question and the materials used in its construc- 
tion. This means you'll need to do a little testing to deter- 
mine the maximum wireless range for your particular 
situation. Wireless device manufacturers, such as Linksys 
(http://www.linksys.com), often suggest that you start with 
your wireless device and access point in the same room 
and then systematically try going online with your wireless 
device (such as a notebook) in various locations, moni- 
toring the data rate your device receives in each location. 

Wireless devices typically support a variety of chan- 
nels. Each channel uses slightly different frequencies 
within the same band, but some channels may offer 
better results in your particular location. Try using sev- 
eral channels if you have limited range issues. 

In addition, check the configuration of your wireless 
device and ensure that it's set for full or maximum speed. 
Devices that are configured to operate at lower speeds 
may allow for somewhat better ranges but won't offer top 
speeds when used in close proximity to an access point. 

PA 4% u What is WEP and WPA? How are they 
■ F^^^b different and when should I use them? 

These are two security schemes that protect your 
wireless data as it travels over open airwaves. WEP 
(Wired Equivalent Privacy) encrypts wireless data using 
a series of digital keys (usually 64 bits, 128 bits, or 152 
bits in length). By using the same keys on each of your 
wireless network devices, you prevent unauthorized 
wireless devices from monitoring your transmissions or 



Answers to users 7 most common questions about 

Wireless Networking 



using your wireless resources. WPA (Wi-Fi Protected 
Access) is a more recent wireless encryption scheme 
using a 128 -bit key, but it applies more powerful en- 
cryption types (such as TKIP [Temporal Key Integrity 
Protocol] or AES [Advanced Encryption Standard] ) 
and can change the keys dynamically on every autho- 
rized wireless device. This prevents unauthorized tap- 
ping and decryption of your sensitive wireless data. 

PA 4% m Can you cover wireless standards and tell 
■ F%%^b me what data rates I should expect while 
using wireless devices? 

Home and small- office wireless devices are all based 
on variations of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and 
Electronics Engineers) 802.11 wireless standard. The 
802.11b standard is the oldest and most widely adopted 
standard. It uses the popular 2.4GHz frequency band, 
providing data rates up to 11Mbps (megabits per 
second) at ranges of 100 to 150 feet indoors. The 802.11a 
standard is a bit more recent, using the relatively open 
5 GHz band to achieve data rates up to 54Mbps at ranges 
of only 25 to 75 feet. Although 802.11a devices are more 
expensive than 802.11b devices, they can coexist with 
802.1 lb wireless network devices in the same area. 

The 802. llg standard is the newest IEEE wireless 
standard. Like 802.11a, 802. llg can achieve data rates up 
to 54Mbps, but 802.1 lg uses the more common 2.4GHz 
band and offers ranges from 100 to 150 feet. 802.1 lg is 
also backward- compatible with 802.11b devices. 

Keep in mind that data rates can vary, depending on 
real-life radio transmission factors such as range and in- 
terference. As you move the wireless device farther from 
its access point, radio signals weaken and data rates de- 
crease. Interference also plays a part in this situation, es- 
pecially on the popular 2.4GHz band shared with cordless 
phones, microwaves, and other commercial electronic de- 
vices. For example, you may notice data rates decrease 
dramatically whenever your neighbor talks on his cordless 
phone. The phone's interference forces your wireless de- 
vice^) to resend a lot of data that was lost due to interfer- 
ence, thereby reducing the effective data rate. 



106 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



Tech Support • Action Editor 



Myi 






A 



Drive-By Fraud 

& Online Banking Woes 



ACTION EDITOR 

Are you having trouble 
finding a product or 
getting adequate service 
from a manufacturer? If 
so, we want to help solve 
your problem. Send us 
a description of the 
product you're seeking 
or the problem you're 
having with customer 
service. In billing dis- 
putes, include relevant 
information (such as ac- 
count numbers or screen 
names for online ser- 
vices) and photocopies 
of checks. Include your 
phone number in case 
we need to contact you. 

Letters may be edited 
for length and clarity; 
volume prohibits 
individual replies. 

Write to: 
Action Editor 
PO Box 85380 
Lincoln, NE 68501-5380 

Or send email to: 

actioneditor@smart 

computing.com 

Or fax us at: 
(402)479-2104 



In October 2003, I received a 
phone bill from my local provider, 
Verizon. It included $1 74. 12 of 
charges from AT&T. The charges con- 
sisted of two calls listed as COMOROS 
CW and two other calls listed as GUIBIS- 
SAUPG. AT&T investigated the calls but 
claimed they were legitimate and suggested 
that the numbers may belong to an online 
gambling company. A T&T eventually granted 
me goodwill credit for the calls, and I asked 
AT&T to block future calls to these services 
from my residence. On the January 2004 bill, I 
had another charge for $1 1.34 listed as GUI 
BISSAUPG. Again, AT&T insisted that the call 
originated from my residence but agreed to ex- 
tend a credit to my account after I wrote to the 
FCC (Federal Communications Commission). 
Ym tired of these charges showing up on my 
phone bill, and I resent the fact that AT&T 
makes it sound like it is doing me a favor by 
issuing credits on calls I never placed. 

Gotthard Dillier 
Washington, D.C 

COMOROS CW refers to Comoros, the name 
of an island along the Eastern coast of Africa, and 
GUI BISSAUPG refers to the West African 
country of Guinea-Bissau. These countries are 
often linked to gambling and other adult enter- 
tainment services that are known to use dialers, 
small code that can configure a user's dial-up op- 
tions in Windows. There are good and bad uses 
for dialers; some can install themselves without 
the user's knowledge, configure themselves to be 
the primary connection in Windows, and con- 
nect at random without the user's knowledge. 
Toll fees for these services may be excessive and 
are often not disclosed to the user. 

Malicious dialers leave telephone companies 
in a tight spot. An AT&T representative says that 
although AT&T will investigate complaints on a 
case-by-case basis, it cannot act as an enforce- 
ment agency for various reasons, including pri- 
vacy concerns. Users can report suspected crime 
to the FCC, but these kinds of cases are difficult 
to prosecute because the offending companies 



may reside overseas. A customer's best bet is to 
make his system safe and secure. 

Internet Explorer is vulnerable to "drive-by" 
installations. Visiting the wrong site may result in 
a pop-up window that installs software, such as 
dialers, via ActiveX. If you want to continue using 
IE, disable ActiveX by clicking Internet Options 
from lE's Tools menu, choosing the Security tab, 
clicking Custom Level, and changing the options 
dealing with ActiveX to Disable or Prompt. (See 
"Beware Of Spyware, Adware & Sneakware" on 
page 47.) In addition, we suggest that Gotthard 
use software such as Spybot Search & Destroy 
(free; http://www.safer-networking.org) and 
Ad-aware (free; http://www.lavasoftusa.com) to 
eliminate dialers on his system. He should keep 
the programs current and scan his system often. 

Ym retired and travel among my children's 
homes in Georgia, Florida, and Wisconsin. 
Because of this, I opened an account with an 
online bank named NetBank. I made a large 
deposit in early February, the majority of 
which came from selling an item in an online 
auction. I later learned that my account was 
on hold and my supplier could not ship the 
item until he received payment. NetBank 
asked for proof of identity and residence. 
When I told them I live with my children, it 
said any mail to the address on file would suf- 
fice. After repeated failed attempts to resolve 
the hold, my customer eventually stopped pay- 
ment on the cashier's check fearing fraud. 
Meanwhile, I haven't had access to roughly 
$2,100 for more than two months. Is there 
anything you can do to resolve this hold? 

Elena Egidi 
Lawrenceville, Ga. 

We contacted NetBank's PR representative, 
who was willing to help if we could provide 
Elena's account number. Instead of handling per- 
sonal financial data, we put Elena in contact with 
NetBank's PR rep and the two worked together 
to resolve the dispute. Almost a month later, we 
received an email from Elena saying she received 
a check closing out her account with NetBank. 



Smart Computing / August 2004 107 



E d 



tor 



a I 



License 



Pervasive Or Invasive? 



My wife bought her first-ever new car last week. 
Prior to this, we've had a perfectly reasonable 
arrangement whereby I was the one who got the 
new cars, passing the previous car on to her every few years 
or trading in the "old" automobile while she continued to 
drive the other (even older) one. 

This approach has worked for many years, and I saw no 
reason to change it. Why tamper with a system that's 
working so well? 

She saw it differently. After driving our SUV for 10 years, 
Lesley decided it was time that she 
got the next new car. (Go figure.) 

And so she did. After a full 
year of research, test-drives, ad 
perusals, Web searches, phone 
calls, and consultations with 
friends, relatives, neighbors, col- 
leagues, and the guy standing in 
line in front of her at the gro- 
cery store, Lesley sold our SUV 
and purchased a brand-new 
MINI Cooper. 

The Cooper is a fine auto- 
mobile. Built in England, it's a 
BMW-owned reissue of a 
sporty — and very small — British 
coupe with lots of power and a 
well-designed and functional 
array of performance features 

and comfort options. (And it's cute. Very cute. Lesley likes 
to think that it looks charming and sporty, but mainly it 
looks as if it should have a large wind-up key in the back.) 

It's not a terribly expensive car. Generally speaking, neither 
editors nor editors' wives make enough money to drive pricey, 
luxurious cars. (The editor of The New Yorker is probably an ex- 
ception to this rule. I would apply for that job, but I'm pretty 
sure that the editor of that magazine is required to understand 
the cartoons.) Yet, reasonably priced though it is, the MINI 
Cooper sports an astonishing array of high-tech functionality. 
Computers control almost everything: The brakes and suspen- 
sion adjust themselves depending on the angle and speed at 
which the car enters a turn. The car senses road noise, in- 
creasing the stereo volume at high speeds. It tracks what the 
weather has been like — if you've been grinding the car into life 
on cold days, the service light will come on sooner than if 
you've been starting up on balmy Florida mornings. The 
throttle is a drive-by- wire arrangement in which linkages and 
cables have been replaced with a computer chip that signals the 
engine when more gas is required. The windshield wipers adjust 
themselves depending on the amount of moisture on the wind- 
shield and the speed of the car. An LCD panel mounted above 




the steering column displays your speed, miles to go before a 
fill-up is required, the outside temperature, and the gross na- 
tional product of the Eastern European nation of your choice. 

In other words, the Cooper is basically a rolling computer 
with several very nice cup holders. 

Lesley's new car is a good example of what techies call "per- 
vasive computing," the idea that computers are now built-in to 
just about everything and that at some point, all of these com- 
puters will be able to talk to one another. Already, one can pur- 
chase televisions that communicate with computers, 

Internet-enabled refrigerators that 
keep track of what food is inside 
and how long it's been there, cel- 
lular phones that take and email 
pictures, and car stereos con- 
trolled by PDAs (personal digital 
assistants). One can easily imagine 
a future in which our watches, 
televisions, stereos, kitchen appli- 
ances, autos — even our clothes 
and our homes — are all comput- 
erized and all interconnected. 

What will that be like? Will it 
be a good thing? Or does it begin 
to sound a bit too Orwellian? 
Will some of us find it too intru- 
sive? Or will we welcome the 
convergence and intelligence of 
these devices and revel in our 
newfound, technology- abetted power? 

I admit to being a techie and a bit of a gadget freak, but 
I'm not sure I want to be quite that connected. I don't really 
feel comfortable with the thought that my house and my ap- 
pliances could be whispering to each other. What if they're 
plotting against me? What if my refrigerator and my mi- 
crowave decide to call up Best Buy and order themselves a 
companion in the form of a new stove? What if they all get 
into an argument?! 

I think I'll just stick with my collection of discrete com- 
puters, cell phones, PDAs, and the like. I'm sure I'm missing 
out on some fun, but I kind of like the idea that the only 
things that talk to each other in my house are people. 

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that Lesley's new MINI Cooper has 
nothing to say to my 1969 Ford Bronco. Although I think I see 
them huddled together out on the driveway. Whispering. II 

by Rod Scher 




108 August 2004 / www.smartcomputing.com 



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